Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny. Gram & Pap’s house being built on the ridge c. 1953

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Pets and have No Comments

Hunting Adventures – Deer Season

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!  ~Bram Stoker

Deer hunting in Cortland NY Tree stand 11-21-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Cortland, NY … 1st day of deer season 11/21/15

Let me explain my reasoning for using this quote, which was selected more for my own personal humor.  It’s a famous quote, basically showing the correlation between Dracula and wild animals.  Bram Stoker was referring to the werewolves.  Plus, let’s not forget there’s the underlying theme of Dracula being a hunter.  (I think I’m going to add this book to my list of reads.)  Everyone knows who, not what, Dracula hunted, although perhaps he too hunted deer in his off time.

Out of shear curiosity, I looked up hunting in Transylvania, and they actually have red, fallow and roebuck deer!  A little fun fact.  One day, I’d like to take dad to hunt there.  I bet it’d be fun.

Anyway, focusing on good old white tail deer, during rifle season in Western Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago, the hunting season began.  I wish I had stories to tell from fall turkey, but alas I was really busy with Thrill of the Hunt and prepping to take time off for deer season that I wasn’t able to go.  Perhaps, I’ll be able to participate in small game and spring gobbler for the remainder of my 2015 – 2016 hunting license.  We’ll see.

Dad & Larry getting ready to deer hunt Cortland NY 11-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Larry adding ribbons to the trees, while Dad drove behind. Larry gave us a tour of the woods we were hunting in, & helped us get ready for the 1st day of deer. 11/20/15

Looking back on this entire season, it started off the same with the Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt and ended much the same with Pennsylvania deer.  How so?  Let me explain.

Dad and I went to Cortland, New York, as we do every year for the first day of rifle for deer, which began on Saturday, November 21st, a little over a week before Pennsylvania’s season began.  This year, we hunted in a different area, one that clearly showed signs of populated deer.  Promising right?  You bet!  Dad was positioned one side of the woods, while I was on the other end.  Prior to hunting on Saturday, a good friend of dad’s who we stayed with, showed us our new hunting spots the day prior.  Good to go!

Dad and I each had a buck and a doe tag.  How many deer did we get total?  Zero.  How many deer did we see between the two of us?  Nada.  Seriously?  Yes!  By Saturday night, everyone in our group got a buck, but no one saw a single doe.  It was the strangest thing, usually the opposite happens.  Then, for me and dad to not see a single deer, no one could believe it.  Well, it happens.

Deer Hunting in Indiana PA Tree Stand 11-30-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Indiana, PA. Love the morning view! 11/30/15

From what I was told, that area of New York, off the finger lakes, had a really rough winter last year ,and it killed off a bunch of deer.  Oh well, I was happy to see everyone else harvested at least one deer.  Keep in mind, that was just opening day.  Dad and I were going to continue hunting until we filled our tags, or Thanksgiving came first, forcing us home.

Sunday came, and yes you’re allowed to hunt on Sunday’s in New York, but another nothing.  No deer sightings at all.  Monday.  Zip.  Tuesday.  Zilch.  Wednesday.  Nada.  How many deer did we see?  Total between the two of us?  That’s a big fat zero.  We even moved to different locations throughout the week to increase our chances, but alas no deer.  I told Dad and Larry, I suspected the deer intercepted their phone conversations and had us bugged to avoid us.  Honestly, I had a great season last year so I can’t complain.  It’s a bit disappointing and anticlimactic, but it’s apart of the hunting experience.  Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you see a trophy buck, sometimes you don’t even see a buck.  We left Wednesday to head home, after trying our luck in the woods again, but to no avail.

On a side note, Larry gave us his doe he shot later in the week.  That wasn’t necessary, but very kind of him.  Larry felt bad for our lack of adventure, but I don’t think he realized we had fun regardless.  Hanging with Dad in the woods is always a nice time.  I told Dad, that the deer he gave us to take home felt like a consolation prize.  Dad laughed and agreed with me, but was also very appreciative over the gesture.

Deer Hunting in New York 11-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

One of my spots while hunting in New York. Waiting for Dad to pick me up to call it a day. 11/24/15

I’m glad we made it back by Wednesday night, to spend some time with Kyle.  I was also able to help mom cook and prep for Thanksgiving dinner, which Kyle joined us.

After a short hiatus, the first day of buck in Pennsylvania began on Monday, November 30th.  Dad and I were both really excited, thinking our luck was going to change.  Unlike New York, we were only allowed to shoot buck on Monday, three points or better.  The night before, I was joking with Dad saying, I forgot what a deer looks like in the woods.  Dad began to tease me and tell friends and family that I was the reason we didn’t see any deer.  We were both giggling over our New York experience, and we were ready to bring home some deer meat.

By eight or nine in the morning, I saw a few doe.  To be honest, it was nice just seeing the deer, however no horns.  At the end of the day when dad pulled the quad up to my stand to pick me up, neither of us had anything to drag out.  Dad didn’t see anything!  He was happy to hear I saw about thirteen doe, although I’m not sure if they were all different, or the same group running around.  Still, good sign.

Deer Hunting Tweet Aunt Heather Piper

Naturally, I have social fun while deer hunting. If Dad knew, I’d be the one shot, not the deer!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hunt on the first day of doe, that Saturday, but dad did.  He went into my tree stand and harvested a doe in the morning.  Yeah!  Finally something for our efforts.

I hunted sporadically with dad the rest of the season, again at different locations.  Can you believe we never saw a single deer?  Not one deer after Dad got his doe!  On the last day of deer season, Saturday, December 12th, which happened to be my birthday, and Mom and Dad’s 64th wedding anniversary, we never saw a deer.  This time we were hunting in Stahlstown.  We even had guys pushing for us, but nothing, not even an almost sighting, or a waving tail.

I didn’t realize our goose hunt started a trend we couldn’t shake the entire deer season, from New York to Pennsylvania.  The season might have been a bust with respect to harvesting deer meat, but to be honest, I had a great time with Dad.  It’s funny, when we came home on Saturday, Dad made the exact same comment about having fun even though no one took a single shot.  Like me, Dad loves being in the woods, walking around, and being removed from the hustle and bustle of life.  Sure, it’s always nice to accomplish your goal of filling the deer tags, but it’s also about the experience and spending time together.

I’m sure in years to come, we’ll talk about this adventure.  I hope so, for it’s a great memory!  The only thing missing was Kyle.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from our goose blind in Pymatuning State Park. Yes, those are decoys .. 11/13/15

I blinked, and a month just passed me.  I guess this is the time of year everyone experiences the same.  For me, I’ve not only been busy with Thrill of the Hunt, but hunting season is in full throttle.  It’s been an interesting season thus far, so let me recap.

First, I’d like to mention, that on the Friday of goose hunting, Kyle was in Indiana for Nationals Marching Band Competition.  He also chose not to hunt this year.  Why?  I’m not sure.  He says it’s because he’s too busy with band, but truth be told, I believe he’s just not into hunting.  There isn’t anything wrong with that.  I too took a sabbatical in my late teens and twenties.  Between colorguard, winterguard, indoor drumline (senior year), work, college and becoming an independent adult, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time to add hunting.  I almost wished I didn’t, but then again I don’t regret it.  Although, I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to hunt with Ryan before he passed.  I mean Ryan came along when I started hunting, but he wasn’t old enough.  At least, I was able to be apart of Kyle’s hunting origins.  Perhaps, Kyle’s a lot like me with respect to hunting, growing an interest and appreciation for it later in life.  Whatever he decides I’m on board, but I truly missed him.

Now let me recap last month’s hunting adventures, starting with goose hunting.

Dad Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad was playing lookout at Pymatuning State Park. Goose Hunting 11/13/15

Friday, November 13th – Goose Hunting in Pymatuning State Park (about 60 miles south of Erie, Pennsylvania)
This year was the first in about twenty years that dad was issued his goose blinds in Pymatuning!  Let me tell you, he was really excited, as was I.

I’m no stranger to Pymatuning State Park.  My parents had good friends, (two of the brothers who joined us on our hunt), had a cabin in that area.  We’d go camping in the summer, and feed bread to the carp at the Spillway on the Pymatuning Reservoir.  Yes, there are so many carp, the ducks actually walk on their heads.

So what does it mean to get a goose blind?  It means that dad was allowed to go goose hunting on his assigned day and bring four other guests.  Naturally, I was his number one choice!  The other two who joined us were Dave and Dean Shober.

The rules are very clear.  Like what?  We’re only allowed to hunt from sunrise, which was at 6:34 am till 12:30 pm, and checking out by 1:30 pm.  They clearly listed the rules as we walked in to get registered, as well as reiterated once we drew our blind number.  I can’t remember all the rules, but we weren’t allowed to shoot more than thirty to fifty yards away.  They encouraged waiting till the geese or ducks landed (not always practical).  We weren’t permitted to sky blast as they called it.  Of course, we were only allowed to use ten steel shot shells per person (total of forty shots out of one blind) and one goose or duck per person.  Do they count?  You bet they do!

Now for the fun part, the events of the day.  We leave mom and dad’s house around 1:00 am to arrive really early, about 4:00 am or so.  Registration wasn’t until 5:00 am (one and a half hours before sunrise).  Then, walking in, the first thing they do is ask for your Pennsylvania hunting license, goose stamp (an actual stamp purchased at the post office, which had to be signed) and the migratory bird license (another purchase).  All this to shoot one goose?  Yep.  Did we have everything required?  Yes, kinda.

Goose hunting Pymatuning Dad leaving 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Calling it a day, goose hunting at Pymatuning State Park. 11/13/15

In fact, I decided to be in charge of packing the required paperwork for me and dad.  The Shober brothers went in line first.  Everything checked out.  Done.  Now dad and I were up, with a minor problem.  We didn’t have our hunting licenses.  Really?  Kinda.  You see, I grabbed the doe tags thinking we just needed to prove we had a license, after all we couldn’t have our doe tags without having a license.  Boy I was wrong.  Apparently, those are tags and not the actual license.  The license was at the top of all the tags with a bar code on it.  Seriously?  In all the years I’ve been hunting, and been around hunting (my entire life) I never knew that. I thought the tag was the license.  Nope.  Apparently, they needed to punch a stamp in the actual license.  Oops.

Of course, the game commissioner had to pull us aside and look up our information and such.  Obviously, we had our Pennsylvania hunting license, or we couldn’t have presented our doe tags, but whatever.  Eventually, after much lecture and warning, he graciously let us hunt, since we were legit and we drove a large distance to hunt.  Dave said, “Once I heard you had no license I was ready to get back in the truck and go home, thinking they would never allow us to hunt.  Then, both of you didn’t bring your license!  I thought there’s no way!”  Ye of little faith.

Did you know the entire time, dad never threw me under the bus?  Ever.  He even stood up for me and concurred with my logic.

While we piled back in the truck to head to our blind (#18) I told the guys not to bring it up because it was my fault.  Dave said, “That doesn’t matter, it’s still Ron’s fault and he’s never gonna live this down.” as the guys laughed, ready to give a life long torment to dad.

Funny Stories

Dad Dean Dave Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Dean, Dave creeping on the geese at Pymatuning State Park, PA 11/13/15

Now to the bat cave.  Not really, but to our blind.  We followed the map, and parked in the designated area, but no one really knew the actual location of our assigned blind.  Plus, it was around 5:30 am, still very dark.  In front of the truck sat a field.  The Shober’s thought we might need to hike back in there to get to our blind, but one knew for sure, until a stranger spoke up.  Another hunter must’ve overheard our conversation and pointed us in the right direction, which was the complete opposite of where we were heading.  Can you imagine, four hunters, dressed in total camouflage, walking around with large geese decoys, totting shot guns, in a mystery field of tall grass, in the pitch black?  Now that would have made for a GREAT story!

As we approached our blind, all four of us stopped to stare in disbelief.  We were expecting a small space among the corn field with four tiny stools.  Nope.  Instead, we landed ourselves the Taj Mahal, the luxury blind!  It was a well built enclosed structure complete with seats for everyone, shelves to set drinks and food, notches for the shot guns to lean safely, four half walls and a swing door.  The front structures had panels to remove in case additional visuals were needed, and the roof retracted back to accommodate sky shots.  Perfect!

When we were getting ready, Dave pulled out this light that wraps around his head, similar to the ones dad and I have.  He showed me his features including high and low beams and some read flashing lights.  Wow!  He had the Lexus of head lamps!  Me and dad?  Ours was a very simple on/off light that did tilt (although dad figured that out a week later after we basically had to wear the headlamps between our eyes to get the right angle).  Boy did that spark comments between the guys.  Dave kept asking dad to turn on his low beams, knowing dad didn’t have that option.  They were cracking me up!

Then, let’s discuss placing the decoys.  First of all, it was pitch black when we initially placed them.  The guys had me count out about fifty feet from our post to give us a general idea of distance.  After what should have been a simple activity, seemed to be a chaotic dance ritual.  Did I mention, Dave kept high beaming dad when talking to him?  I was dying!  Then, after playing musical chairs inside the blind, we got situated.  As soon as we could see our decoys, Dean decided to rearrange furniture again.  He also gave us a dissertation on his reasoning behind the placement.  Too much!  Personally, I didn’t care, I was just having fun laughing at the guys acting like kids.  Dean did give some some fun facts, like geese land flying into the wind and take off the same.  The wind was actually at our backs that day.

Guys leaving Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Dean & Dave, leaving our luxury goose blind at Pymatuning State Park 11/13/15

Now onto the face mask.  A few times, the geese were headed our way and we thought they were going to land and mingle with our decoys.  We all ducked behind the blind, concealing ourselves.  Can you image watching a bunch of grown men, dressed head to toe in camouflage, scurrying to hide from flying geese?  Then, what came next almost made me fall off my seat laughing.  Dave places this camouflage mesh face mask over his face, tucked under his hat, to peek out over the wall.  He announced, “I don’t see any geese.”  What?  There was an entire flock flying our way.  Dean decided to inspect the situation.  He pulled his camouflage hat low over his face and creeped up to look over the wall.  He said, “There right there Dave!”  I couldn’t handle it!  They were like Laurel and Hardy!  Even dad busted out laughing.  This didn’t just happen once, but a few times.

I felt like I was in a hen house with all the chattering going on.  What were they talking about?  You name it.  They were telling past and present stories of deer hunting, geese hunting, fishing, and all things guys.  On our way up to Pymatuning, we actually saw a driver on route 30 clip the hindquarter of a doe.  Dad tried not to hit it, but as soon as he was finally able to stop completely, Dave who was sitting in the passenger side, saw the deer’s head moving around not going anywhere.  To evaluate the situation, dad put the truck in reverse.  We felt the truck lift and drop as we drove back over the deer.  Yikes!  I was expecting the worse, but as soon as that happened, the deer got up and ran off.  Dad had it pinned under the truck!  Only later did that become part of the taunting with respect to the doe tags.  “Ron should have tagged the doe since he brought his doe tags to geese hunt.” and “Since Ron brought his doe tags, we should go deer hunting.”  I simply shook my head, laughing along with them.

At one point, the guys noticed another blind up the hill removed their decoys all together.  So our crew chose to follow suite thinking they had some goose insider.  Again, we had to leave our blind, which according to the rules, was only permitted if absolutely necessary.  I turned around to find dad holding two decoys, one under each arm like he was flying.  He was flapping his wings and cracking himself up.  He was like a little kid having fun with his friends.

It was a really windy and cold day, but one worth it.  I was torn between going to watch Kyle and go goose hunting with dad.  I would have won with either decision.  Did we eventually fill our tags and get our geese?  Nope.  Did anyone take a shot?  Nope.  Did the geese even come remotely close?  Nope.  Did we have a great time?  You bet!  I can’t wait to go again!  I bet Kyle would enjoy himself if he came.

 

 

 

murders row

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Simply Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa

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A view that no photo can capture… a perfect snowy night. 2/2015

Since it’s Friday, and my days have been filled with a lot of heavy, I wanted to step back and reflect.   Today, I awoke in the early morning hours to find another dusting of snow blanketing the world outside.  Gazing out the window, trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I was instantly warmed with nostalgic memories and a serene feeling.  All from watching the snow sit still among the darkness?  Absolutely!

It’s funny, just the other day, dad commented that he loved the late evenings, in the middle of winter, when everything is covered in snow and is at rest.  I’m paraphrasing for he probably said something along the lines of, “I always liked this.”  But I knew exactly what he meant.  He’s right, that time of day is the best!  Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve always held an affinity for those qualities to grace me with their presence.  That’s one of my favorites during hunting season, the dark hours, snow hiding all details of nature, and the silence that seems to accompany that exact moment.  I love it!

Last week, while I was trimming the blueberry bushes and the grape vines at mom and dad’s house, I let the dogs run around in the snow (mom and dad live in the country).  With the frigid days, our four-legged pals were suffering horribly from cabin fever, and I knew they needed to stretch their legs.  It was in the twenties, with little to no windchill, the sun was brightly shining overhead, and the yard had a healthy dose of snow.  All perfect conditions for playtime.

Well, naturally, I got involved in my work and unbeknownst to me, all three dogs made their escape, and decided to go on a walk about.  I never know if I should be insulted when they make plans without me, or happy because they’re getting exercise, but regardless, they made a break for it.  When the boys and Avery pull this stunt without adult supervision, there’s a 50/50 chance it will end well.  Although, on a good note, my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, had a blast running around the snow and climbing up on the grape arbor without the dogs chasing her around.  Luckily, we had the tracker on Avery, but it soon died and lost connection with our delinquents.

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Love the silence of the night, covered in snow! 2/2015

Anyway, after some time, I layered up and headed out to follow their tracks before it got dark.  Just as I approached the middle of the woods, a few miles out, I received a call from dad saying the hounds were back.  What?  It was now getting really dark and I knew dad had the fireplace blazing for them, yet, here I was stuck hiking through snow, in the middle of nowhere, while everyone warmed up and relaxed!  Did I mention, there were a ton of coyote tracks all around me, and in the distance I saw a fresh deer hide ripped to shreds?  Kinda scary, only because I didn’t have my pistol and my phone was ready to die, but then again I really didn’t care.

To be honest, I didn’t mind being in the woods, or even being in the woods with darkness hot on my heels.  Actually, it was a relaxing point in time, a moment of not worrying, for the dogs were safe, Kyle was accounted for, and I didn’t need to be anywhere, or do anything at that particular juncture.  My mind wasn’t racing and I wasn’t in a hurry.  In fact, I was were I needed to be at that point in time.  It was hovering in a state of simple silence and peace.  When was the last time you felt that?  God took a potentially bad situation, and blessed me with the complete opposite.

Did I care it was now dark among the trees?  No, actually I didn’t.  When I was little, Ryan, our cousins, some of our friends and myself (Nicole would sometimes make her appearance), would run through the woods all night long, mostly during the summer months and sometimes on the weekends in autumn, especially during Halloween.  We’d either play war and corn each other, explore and go on adventures, or simply scare each other.  It was our childhood, and the woods were our playground.

While walking back, the only sounds I heard was the soft crunching of snow under my feet, and the slight wind blowing past me, rustling loose branches and causing the treetops to clap.  The moonlight reflected just enough light from the snow to guide my way.  Everyone once in a while, I’d stop to take it all in, all the benevolence of nature.  I’d like to think Ryan was walking with me, for he too loved the woods and winter time.

Always try to look on the good side of any situation, for God always reveals a gem of delight found in silence among the noise and chaos.  Happy Friday!

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.  ~Julia Child

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Close-up of the deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. 1/24/15

On Saturday, we finally had the chance to make deer bologna and deer jerky.  Is it hard?  Nope, not even close.  The hardest part is monitoring the cooking, or in the case of the jerky, the dehydration machine.  As long as you keep a close eye on the meat, perfection!  A healthy snack!

Way back in December, during hunting season, which seems like a lifetime ago now, we ground up the deer meet into hamburger.  Yes, we have a grinder to grind our own meat.  Believe it or not, we use it during the winter months, not only for deer, but also if we’re butchering a cow (ground chuck) or pig (sausage).  By next year, I’m going to raise my own turkeys, and make ground turkey meat. (I love turkey burgers!) We weighed the meat, sealed it in plastic wrap, wrapped it in freezer paper, labeled it, and froze until ready to use.  We use the ground deer meat for burgers, taco meat, and meatloaf, among other recipes.  This year, we set some aside specifically for the bologna and jerky.

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Deer Bologna ready to be snacked on … made with cheddar cheese! 1/24/15

Before beginning, the weighed meat needs to be removed from the freezer, at least a day or two in advance to slowly defrost.  I wouldn’t suggest using a microwave to assist with this process, because even though the microwave “defrosts” the meat, it still cooks the edges slightly, and that’s no good.  Do yourself a favor, and take the time to let the meat thaw naturally.

In the past, we’ve made deer Salomi, but from what my parents said, they didn’t care for it as much as the bologna.  So bologna it is!

We purchase our bologna mix at Gander Mountain, and sometimes Cabela’s.  There’s a certain brand my parents like, although I can’t remember the name (It’s in an orangeish bag).  You can purchase bologna kits, that contain the pertinent spices, as well as the casings.  We prefer the fat casings, as opposed to the thinner ones.  The thinner ones tend to dry out fast, especially when cooked alongside the fat ones.  So cook them separately, if you choose to use a combination of fat and thin casings.

Starting with the bologna, since it takes a while to cook, we dropped the thawed weighed ground deer meat in our hand crank mixer.  Using dad’s homemade red wine instead of water, we diluted the spices in the liquid.  Simply follow the directions on the package for exact measurements.  Now, it’s really as easy as adding the diluted spice mixture to the meat, mixing, and then stuffing.  Make sure you soak the casings in warm water prior to stuffing.

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Close-up or our deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. Perfect snacking goodness! 1/24/15

To assist us a step further, we added the meat mixture to our hand crank stuffer, typically used to stuff sausage.  It works wonderfully with the bologna casings, as long as you use the smallest tube and keep the air out by holding the end into the meat.  Simply, crank the mixture into the casing, leave a little room at the open end to twist, and seal.  Lay the long cylinders together ready for baking.  I wouldn’t recommend adding the bologna rods in the oven one at a time.  Save yourself some frustration, and confusion and add them all together, on the same rack.   Again, use the cooking directions on the package.

On a side note, during the mixing stage, we added chunks of cheddar cheese to the meat.  My family is partial to the meat and cheese mixture, but you can add, jalapeno peppers, spicy cheese, or garlic pieces.  Experiment to find out what your family likes best.  Keep in mind, when another ingredient is added to the meat mixture, it will increase the amount of bologna, in turn increasing the number of casings used.  So, have an extra casing or two handy, you’ll need it!

I do want to call out, during this process, Kyle would not touch the raw meat with his hands.  That cracks us all up!  He simply just can’t do it.  Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smear a little meat on his cheek or hand.  Kyle snickered and played along for a while, until he had enough.  He’s not the adventurous or traditional type of cook.  He’s more the, stand-on-the-sidelines and dictate direction.  I love that kid!

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This picture is just hilarious…as I opened my sister’s hallway closet, I saw these Ramen Noodles. Apparently, she purchased them as part of her doomsday prep!  Gross!  The best part?  She bought them on Craig’s List! I was dying! 2014

Okay, funny story, yes besides me grossing Kyle out.  It’s always an adventure in the Piper household, especially when Kyle and I are involved.  While Kyle was cranking the meat mixture into the casing, he was struggling a bit.  Toward the bottom of the metal container, it does get tough to crank.  Smarty pants me, told Kyle to step aside, thinking he was being dramatic.  When I began cranking, Kyle sarcastically commented, “It’s not that easy is it Aunt Heather?”  In a way, he sounded just like his dad, Ryan, when he was trying to prove a point.  While I was flexing my muscles, literally, I too wanted to prove a point.  My point?  That there was still plenty of cranking room.  While doing so, we heard a huge BOOM noise.  Everyone looked at me, like I had a clue what that noise was.  I back peddled the crank to find that I was pressing the mixture so hard, it created a vacuum and blew the cheese cubes flat to the bottom of the metal container.  Keep in mind, there was still meet mixture in the tube leading to the casing.  During the back peddling process, the space beneath my sealed top, where there was a void of air, it pulled the meat mixture back into the container.  It was amazing, it happened so fast we just stood dumfounded.  The force was so great, the meat gathered in a large single mass in the center of the container.  Science, too cool!  It’s little moments like that, that make this so much fun!  We were giggling, and having a good time.

While the bologna cooked, we started the deer jerky.  Same process really, take the thawed weighed ground deer meat, and the spices diluted in dad’s wine, and mix well.  Instead of using the stuffer, we added the meat mixture to a press, which resembles a cookie press, or an odd looking firearm. (fitting)  Anyway, we used the thin narrow tip to squeeze the meat directly onto our plastic dehydration racks.  Since the racks are circular in shape, we lined up the meat strips from outer ring to the center, giving it a wheel appearance, leaving space between strips for air circulation.  Then, on the next row, I staggered the meat strips, compared to the rack below.  This continued until all the meat was used.  One batch filled our machine, almost perfectly (I believe we have extra trays).  We placed a timer on the machine, and let modern technology do the rest.

With each, the deer bologna and deer jerky, it’s prudent to constantly check the progress, and not let the oven or the timer on the dehydrator dictate when the meat is done.  Nope, you be the judge.  Check the temperature of the bologna, and check the texture of the jerky.  Also, keep in mind with the dehydrator, some trays will finish sooner than others.  Don’t over do it.

Once you’re done, sit back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  It’s totally worth it!  Gathering as a family, and passing along cooking traditions such as this one with Kyle, makes it a truly memorable experience.  Kyle loves his deer meat, and he enjoys cooking, but he loves being a part of the family the most.  Even at his thirteen years, I could tell he likes to be included in our traditions, as much as we adore including him.  Happy snacking!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Hunting: Our Pennsylvania Adventures

One day might be different from another, but there ain’t much difference when they’re put together.  ~William H. Armstrong

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While hunting in New York with dad, I couldn’t help but capture the view from my seat. Perhaps Ryan was joining us? 11/2014

It’s official, hunting  season for deer with a rifle in Pennsylvania is over, at least for the year.  No, hunting is not done, archery and muzzle loader for deer come back after Christmas.  After then starts small game season and spring gobbler, but the big hunting event of the year, the one that only lasts for two weeks, has come to an end.  Was it a good year?  You bet it was, in more ways than one!  God blessed us with a good harvest and great family time in nature.

Besides hunting in New York Hunting: Our New York Adventure, dad, Kyle and myself had fun and were able to harvest several deer for canning and some meat for the freezer, to be consumed for dinner in the near future.  Even though Kyle and I didn’t get a single deer in Pennsylvania, dad filled his doe tags and added to our stockpile of meat.

The best part of hunting?  Yep, hanging with dad and Kyle and getting out in nature!  I must admit, I missed Kyle being with us in New York, but he made up for it on the first day of buck, which was Monday, December 1st, plus this past Saturday and the one prior.  It’s always an adventure with the Piper family, double when Kyle is involved!

There are so many funnies, I seriously can’t remember them all, but here are a few for the records.

Something that started in New York, but I forgot to mention it, was dad and his smarties.  My dad LOVES those small pellets of sugar that come in clear plastic packaging.  If those aren’t available then he settles for sweet tarts.  This year, he kept stocking up on the rolls of Wonka Sweet Tarts.

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Dad loves his Wonka Sweet Tarts! He claims they bring in the big deer during hunting season… too funny!

While in New York, I was sitting in our tree stand with dad watching out for deer.  All of a sudden I heard the subtle tearing of paper?  I turned my heard toward dad to see him carefully tearing his candy roll as to not drop a single sweet tart.  After he popped in a colorful disc, he leaned into to me with a serious face and said, “These will help bring in the big deer.”  I started cracking up!  During the day when things got slow, dad would pull out his sweet tarts and reiterate, “The deer like these, they’ll come now.”  Very unlike dad in the woods, joking around, but it was funny!  I mean we weren’t dancing around, but those comments cracked me up, not to mention, my dad, a big lumberjack type of guy, tearing at his Wonka candy with precision was hilarious!

Now back to Pennsylvania.  By now, dad was fully addicted to his Wonka Sweet Tarts.  That Wednesday, after the first day of buck, dad and I sat together in the woods.  We never did see anything, but it wasn’t due to a lack of sweet tarts.  Dad did the same thing, unrolled his paper to release a colorful disc when there was no signs of deer.  I even joined him, popping a few colorful candies to pass the time.  At one point, dad almost knocked me off my chair, he nodded at me to look in his direction.  Just then, dad unzipped his vest and pulled the fabric back to expose his top shirt pocket.  There were two more rolls of those darn sweet tarts sticking out of his pocket!  He showed me his candy with a straight face, like a gangster was showing his pistol.  I actually laughed-out-loud!  Dad and that candy was totally silly!  After that, the Wonka candy became part of our checklist before entering the woods: rifle, check; shells, check; deer tags, check; candy, check.  Kyle got a kick out of me telling him about his pap and the new “deer lure”.

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Down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. 12/2014

I can make anything into an adventure, even by myself.  On Saturday, December 6th, the first day of doe, I made my way down to my spot, marked with orange ribbons, placed by dad a week prior to hunting season.  The same spot I sat for the first day of buck.  It was a soggy Saturday, raining ALL night into the next morning and continuing ALL day.  I chose my tree and pulled out my portable seat.  It was the kind that folds up, like a directors chair, only smaller.  I placed it in position and pushed it firmly into the saturated muddy ground.  The chair was strategically placed in front of a fallen log, so if I needed to shoot off of it, I could.  Great!  I was facing a couple deer paths and ready to go, or so I thought.  As I sat my bottom down on my portable stool with a metal frame and a fabric seat, I began sinking and sinking and sinking.  Initially, I thought the gravitational pull would cease, and the ground wouldn’t swallow me up whole, and that I would be secured momentarily.  Wrong!  I continued to sink until I was laying flat on my back with my rifle laying over my chest.  What?  It seriously all happened in slow motion and I was completely dumbfounded.

After a moment or two passed, and the shock of me spread out on the floor of the woods became clear in my mind, I jumped up to examine the scene.  The fabric on the chair ripped, sending the metal sides to flatten out, since there was no fabric to hold them together, allowing me to meet the ground.  Standing in the rain looking down at my flattened seat, I just laughed and laughed, almost thankful no one was around.  Although, I wouldn’t have minded someone joining me in the humor of the situation.

So what did I do?  I folded the seat back up, almost meeting the metal framework together, and forcefully ramming the legs of the stool into the muddy ground till it was secured.  Simply, I sat on the metal frame projected from the ground.  Not comfortable, yet not entirely uncomfortable.  I didn’t care, after all it was already less than favorable hunting conditions with constant rain, which never let up.

Naturally, that’s the one day I got to see something, and I missed at the doe.  As I was trying to see the deer in my fogged up scope with rain falling down my face, a big rain drop hit my scope with a pitch perfect “tinking” sound that seemed to echo for miles around.  Before the echos could travel far, the doe was getting ready to run and “hightail” it out of there, not that I blame her.  All the deer in the area were already spooked, so I quickly took a shot… and missed!  She didn’t stick around for me to reload and took off down the hill into the brush.  It happened very quickly, with low visibility on my part.  Dang!  It happens.

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Near the lake, down the hill from our hunting spot. I couldn’t resist checking it out while pushing deer for dad. 12/2014

Another funny… the same day, I was wearing a camouflaged rain coat with a thin bright orange vest and an orange baseball cap.  I know, what a sight!  Dad had on similar clothing to try and keep as dry as possible.  Kyle on the other hand, was dressed in a bright orange poncho, as to not be mistaken in the foggy rainy woods for something other than a pre-teen.  After all, no one would get close enough to hear him whine, or munch on food and determine the mystery figure was indeed Kyle.  Dad kept calling him the Ninja Turtle.  That’s comical!  The whole ride back and the week until this past weekend, Kyle was referred to as the Ninja Turtle.  Sometimes dad comes up with good ones!

By 1:00 pm, we were all ready to call it a day.  Even with our ponchos on, we were soaked to the bone and cold.  The temperature was just warm enough to bring rain, yet cold enough to chill the body.  We left without a deer, but I had some excitement.

This past Saturday, the last day of hunting season, I did see a few deer, but was not able to get a shot.  One deer only showed the top of its ears and tail, too much brush to find the body, let along shoot through that mess.  It does make it exciting, to see anything, even if a shot isn’t taken.

During the day I called dad to check in on him and Kyle, they were at a nearby location in a ladder stand.  As I was talking, in low tones, dad responded, “I can’t really hear you, someone is chomping on trail mix in my ear.”  Obviously referring to Kyle.  I could tell, they both had enough.  It was pretty cold and I bet the wind off of the lake, hit them hard in their stand.

Eventually, Kyle convinced dad he was too cold to hunt anymore.  This time it was about 1:30 pm.  Only Kyle can work his pap over to leave the woods early on the last day of hunting, without dad getting his buck.

On the ride back, dad and Kyle told me what they saw in the woods.  Deer right?  Nope.  They saw a small hawk swoop down from the sky and grab a hold of a bluejay passing by.  Both birds dropped to the ground and were wrestling.  Kyle said the bluejay was screaming and squawking, but the hawk had a good grip on its victim.  Dad said, “I thought that bluejay was a gonner.”  It must have been an exciting sight, for Kyle and dad were consumed with the intensity of the situation while telling the story.  Then, Kyle gleefully piped up saying, “Ya, and then all of a sudden the bluejay flew away and the hawk sat above us, watching us”.  Dad added, “I don’t know how it got away, but the hawk wasn’t much bigger than the bluejay.”  Kyle was nodding in agreement and repeated, “That hawk sat above us and watched us.”  I started laughing and added, “Boy he had a big appetite, maybe he was eying YOU up Kyle.”  Kyle just grinned as he reiterated the story with added details and gusto.

While pulling into mom and dad’s driveway what did we see?  Not a buck, but a few does in my Uncle Walter’s field. I called out my finding to dad, who was driving.  Before the words were fully out of my mouth, the truck stopped immediately, dad jumped out, loaded his rifle and scanned for deer.  Kyle and I were still sitting in the truck.  Kyle looked at me with wide eyes saying, “Wow!  I’ve never seen pappy move that fast!  I didn’t know he could load his gun that fast!”  I just smiled for I’ve seen that swiftness many times before.  Kyle was amazed.

At the position dad was standing he couldn’t see the deer.  I took that as my cue to comment to Kyle, “What does pappy need us to draw him a map?”  Eventually dad saw his target, lined up his sights, took aim and shot the doe, about a hundred yards away!  Great shot in the front shoulder, but that didn’t bring it down right away, unbeknownst to us at the time.

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Another view down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. While pushing deer for dad, I traveled closer to the water for a better look… not that I thought I’d find deer walking on water… 12/2014

Seeing more does, Kyle and I grabbed our rifles creeped around the small patch of woods in the field hoping to get a shot at our very own doe.  What we found, surprised us both.

Dad’s deer popped up in the field, nearly twenty feet away from us, and ran across the field.  She scared us both!  Kyle was quick to pull up his rifle to shoot and drop the injured doe, however I stopped him.  Why?  He was standing at least a few feet behind me to the side.  I completely trust my little man, and he is a good shot, but I don’t want him to get in that habit, it’s not safe.  In all the excitement, I did explain my reasoning for stopping him.  He understood, but was focused on the area the doe eventually dropped in.  Kyle moved down the hill like lightening, by now dad was on his quad fast approaching us.  Kyle moved in the direction of the injured deer and shot.  Unfortunately, he shot her in the body, through the guts, when I told him to shoot her in the head to put her out of her misery, quickly.  Kyle told me, “I saw her head in my scope.”  Well, that’s not where you shot, but that’s ok buddy, good practice with free hand.

While all three of us came up on the deer, dad and I noticed she was still kind of alive.  Yikes!  I told Kyle, who had his rifle out and ready to fire, to shoot her in the head.  He looked at me and told me to do the deed.  I could tell he felt bad for the doe and couldn’t do it.  Me, on the other hand, I will absolutely shoot any animal in the head to avoid suffering.  I borrowed Kyle’s .243 and brought the brave animal to peace.  It was an exciting end to a pretty boring day.  Dad and Kyle saw nothing for the duration of the last day, until we came home.

Personally, I’m very happy to know Kyle is fully aware where the meat we consume comes from, and he is capable of survival.  I am also very happy to see he has such a tender heart and didn’t like to see the deer suffer.  He knows he can always count on me and his pap to help him out.  He trusted us to do the right thing and fix the situation.

Overall, it was a great harvest!  Now it’s time to put away the rifles until target shooting in the summer.

On a side note, while butchering the doe dad shot, Kyle responded, “It’s a good thing I got cold and came back early, huh pap?”  He felt bad for wanting to leave early and was trying to justify his actions.  Little does Kyle know, my dad would NEVER have that kid sit there with cold feet, even on the last day of hunting.  Kyle is worth more to us than any doe or buck!

Another note, while butchering the deer, Kyle busted into Christmas songs playing on the radio.  He is such a great guy!  I love hanging out with him!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Hunting: Our New York Adventure

You know, one of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music.  ~Annie Proulx

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Kyle at the shooting range with his .22. Kyle’s not a bad shot! 8/25/12

It never fails, my life is an adventure.  Sometimes it brings a smile, or in the case of my dad, it causes a lot of eye rolling.  This past weekend, dad and I were in Cortland, New York hunting.  We left early last Friday (only after we finally remembered to pack everything and had to turn around in Derry, and right before that, Seven and Scooby took off for a jaunt in the woods).  The first day of rifle season was Saturday.

As I’ve mentioned before, the New York hunting rules are slightly different from Pennsylvania’s.  Example, we are allowed to fill our tags with a buck and a doe starting at sunrise on Saturday, the season includes Sundays, and lasts for three weeks.

We arrived Friday mid-afternoon and met Larry, for all intents purposes he was the orchestrator of the hunters.  I was also given the honor of meeting sergeant Mike Bennett.  He’s a wounded warrior from northern New York, who served in the Afghanistan conflict and was a part of our hunting group.  Larry showed us our new hunting spot, and we rode the quads around a bit to get acclimated, seeing five doe on the way.

That night, all the hunters gathered around the campfire on the edge of the woods to finalize the game plans for the next day, and to enjoy idle conversation and socialization.

Dad and I got up early Saturday morning, about 4:30 am, got ready and headed for the woods, riding the quad to our tree stand.  We were on the opposite end of the woods, compared to last year; a really nice spot, with rows of trees, a few trails and a logging road, near a few patches of pines and up the hill from a crab apple section.  In theory, and later on in reality, a great spot!  Actually, I preferred dad hunt in this area, only because getting to it was not such a roller coaster ride and less dangerous for the old man, again compared to his other tree stand.  It was even closer to the truck, pretty ideal. Our Hunting Adventures … New York Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

Waking up to about a half inch to an inch of snow was a nice surprise.  Why?  It makes it better to hunt.  The deer pop off of the background, making them effortless to see.  Plus, it’s easier to follow the deer tracks when pushing deer through the woods or tracking the wounded.  Dad said this was the first opening season in years that snow laid on the ground.  So far so good!

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My 1st buck ever! It as a nice size deer, with a small 6 point rack. Cortland, NY 11/15/14

I do love being in the woods, like dad.  There is something so tranquil and calm, especially sitting in a tree stand, overlooking the woods, blanketed in snow, before the darkness lets the light in.  It’s really quite lovely watching the sun paint the sky with a red and yellow glow as daylight approaches.  It seems at that moment, the cold is not bothersome, in fact refreshing.  The anticipation of the day’s events hold your mind hostage, yet keeps you at peace.  A feeling that needs to be experienced, for words do it no justice.

Hunting started out like it typically does, nothing, nothing, nothing, until that something.  Dad saw a deer wondering through the trees.  Actually, the conversation, which consisted in a loud whisper because dad is hard of hearing, went something like this.

Dad:  There!  Past the big stump.  Do you see it?
Me:  Where?
Dad:  There Heather!  Do it see it move its head?  To the right of the (some species of tree).
Me:  Where?
Dad:  Heather!  Look straight down past the big stump! (while there are several large stumps with blown over trees)
Me:   O think I see it! (I did see its backside for a brief moment)
Dad:  Do you see it?  It went behind the trees.
Me:  No.
Dad:  Do you see it now?
Me:  No.
Dad:  Do you see it now?
Me:  No.

Repeat that last part for about a half an hour.  I could not see the deer to save my soul.  At first, I thought I saw it briefly, but then it was behind a cluster of trees and out of my vision, or at least that’s what I’m claiming.  It also took me off guard that my dad, who is in his sixties with questionable eyesight, spotted the deer that far away, at least one hundred fifty yards, through obstacles.  Initially, I was looking closer to us, till I realized dad was looking at a large stump way down over the hill among the trees, through the brush.

The rest of the conversation continued with:
Dad:  There, its moving to the right.  Do you see it?
Me: (as I looked toward the left with my scope)
Dad:  Your other right!
Me:  (I chuckled a bit, for I was starting to get stressed out and flustered) O I see it!  (This time I actually did!)

Hastily, I lined up the deer in my scope and shot through the brush… and missed.  To make sure, dad had me get out of the tree stand and check out the scene to make sure it wasn’t wounded.

Naturally, once on the ground, I couldn’t find the location of the action.  While walking around an area, I looked up to see dad waving me in the right direction.  Now, I was able to really chuckle to myself, for I am always directionally challenged.  Eventually, dad must have been frustrated, so he too got down from the tree stand and trekked toward me to look around.  We saw no signs of the deer and most importantly no blood.  Total miss.  A little disappointing, but the day was still young.

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The trail leading up to our tree stand in Cortland, NY 11/15/14

By the time we got back to the tree stand, dad was stripping off his neck warmer and hat and breathing heavy.  I had to wait for him to enter the stand first, since he’s so large and awkward, it makes it easier on him, and me, to use all the space to get adjusted before I plant my bottom down.  Dad needed to take a minute to catch his breath at the lander, before heading up.  Being a stinker and in not bad shape, I simply said, “Does someone need more cardio?”  Ya, dad gave me a snarly look, but totally worth it.

The next few hours weren’t very exciting, that is until dad pointed out a few does.  Picking out the largest one, I shot her at a close fifty to seventy-five yards.  We went through the process of getting out of the stand again, inspecting the harvest and tagging it with my name, and getting back in the stand again.  Believe it or not, that was my very first deer.  Yes, I did hunt when I was younger, but I never got anything.  I took a hiatus for many years before returning to my roots.

Believe it or not, in less than an hour later, even before I could get cold again, I saw a buck walking through the trees.  This one I spotted on my own.  I now had deer vision.  At this point, my heart was pounding and I was getting nervous.  Once dad spotted the graceful beast, which didn’t take him long, he coached me a bit.  “Wait for it to get out of the brush, don’t try shooting through the brush.”  He spoke in a whisper.  After watching the buck in my sights for what seemed like an hour, it finally gave me a clear shot, with less than a minute window to react at about one hundred twenty-five yards away.  I did, and the result?  I harvested my very first buck!  It was a nice size deer, no doubt I knew it would yield a lot of good meat.  How many points?  The buck had a small rack in relation to its body, but there were six points!  Dad was really proud of me; for the solid shot, for providing food for the table, for my first buck, for my efforts to keep our hunting tradition alive, you name it dad was happy!  He gave me a big old hug and a smile that lit up the already bright sunny blue sky.  It was a good day!  One I will always remember.

Now that my tags were filled, dad was next.  The rest of the day was uneventful, with the exception of gutting and skinning my deer.  That night everyone met at Larry’s house for some late night snacks, to show off everyone’s harvests and to share stories.  We stayed for a good while before our eyelids became heavy and the anticipation of the next day was overwhelming.

Sunday was much like Saturday, only a bit colder.  Early in the day, dad filled his doe tag, but not his buck.  The guys made a rule to those seasoned hunters, that they were only allowed to shoot eight points or better.  The only exception was me and the kids and those who have never shot a buck before.  We were allowed any number of points.  Did we see any bucks at all?  Nope.

Funny story.  During August or September, dad and I made a day trip to Cortland to bring our extra tree stand and help clean up, getting ready for deer season.  On our way back, I noticed all these birds sitting on the highway signs.  I mean, it seemed like thousands of them!  Every time I pointed it out, dad would drive by and miss this gathering of birds.  Repeating this phenomena at least twice, dad missed both.  By the time we came to a third sign, dad looked up and said, “Boy look at all those birds, looks like they’re going to bend the sign!” with total sarcasm.  I looked up to see about three birds sitting on the metal pole.  “Not funny!”  I told dad and tried to justify my observation.  The entire way home and after, dad teased me about the birds that bent the sign.  Whatever!

New-York-Deer-Hunting-11-15-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The Trooper Hunt Club in Cortland, NY. 1st day of rifle season. I got a buck & doe. Great harvest! 11/15/14

Well, as we sat there, all these geese started flying over head.  Naturally, they were making all kinds of noise.  There must have been a hundred, even though it seemed like a thousand.  The funny part, they flew in small sections, continuously making noise.  It went on for about fifteen minutes.  I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing.  Dad chimed in to say, “I bet they’re going to bend a pole.”  I was cracking up!  It was one of those silly moments, which are rare with my dad, who takes hunting very seriously.

A little later, dad pulled a Kyle.  He got out his trail mix and was trying to open the plastic bag, which was SO noisy.  It sounded like something Kyle would do.  I gave him a look of ‘Are you done yet?’.  That sparked me to say, “Ok, Kyle.”  Dad and I snickered and then started telling Kyle stories to humor ourselves, but mostly because we missed our little man so much.

Where was Kyle?  He wasn’t able to join us on our trip.  He already missed too much school, plus he was sick from the week before, still holding onto a cold.  The trip wasn’t the same without Kyle, but a good regardless.  Everything is more adventurous and fun with Kyle!  Maybe next year.

By Monday, it warmed up a bit, with steady rain ALL day.  It was a cold, bone chilling rain that was not comfortable to sit in.  Being the only ones in the woods, dad and I moved out of our wet spot to another tree stand nearby with a roof.  Well, in my opinion, it was too late since I was already sopping wet.  Dad and I stuck it out till about 2:00 pm or 3:00 pm before calling it a day.  I even hiked through the pine trees to push some deer toward dad with no luck.  We didn’t see any deer and we both knew they were hunkered down not moving, waiting out the rain too.  Eventually, we retreated to the local convenience store for some soup and hot chocolate (dad got coffee).

It took our little space heater in our motel room the rest of the day and all night to dry out our gear.  During our down time, which dad napped a bit, I brought my iPad to get some work done and enjoy the quiet time (with the exception of dad’s snoring).

By Tuesday morning, we decided to hunt a half day and before heading home.  That night the temperatures dropped, forming ice over everything and luckily enough, snow also fell to give some traction to the slick roads.  It was cold!  I mean really, really cold!  The temperatures were in the twenties with major wind, giving the feeling of single digits.  After about two or three hours, we both buckled and went home.  In that time, I walked for about an hour, trying to kick up deer and push them toward dad.  No such luck.  I didn’t even see fresh tracks.  It was time to exit stage right.

I do enjoying hunting, but the best part is spending time with dad in the woods.  God blessed us with a great harvest!  Can’t wait for Pennsylvania’s hunting season to start!  This time I get to hunt with Kyle!

Thank you to Larry, his family and everyone in New York for the hospitality!  I had a great time and I look forward to meeting up with everyone next year.

 

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Hunting: Why I Hunt

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  ~Maimonides

Kyle-smiling-at-trail-cam-1-9-11-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle hamming it up on dad’s trail cam. 1/9/11

Recently, I saw a Facebook entry questioning the practice of hunting, especially posting pictures of the harvested deer.  I take that back, I’ve seen many posts praising hunting and many opposing the practice.  I wanted to respond, but I know I couldn’t justify my actions in a few words, however, hopefully I could get my point across to naysayers through a few more words, actually many many more.  I don’t’ want to single anyone out because this is not about bashing, but simply informing and educating.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can about my family, some of my friends, and me personally.  Sure, there are those who don’t hold the same opinions as I do with respect to hunting, and there are those who give the practice a bad connotation.  Again, I can only outline what I know and hopefully teach through my experiences.

Before I go into detail, I would rather see a picture of a deer harvested from the woods and prepared for dinner, than see it splattered all over the highway.  Over population of deer is very dangerous and a real problem.  That’s why hunting is regulated by the Game Commission and is a legal practice.  Some remote parts of the world only survive on hunting and wild game.  Would you rather a family starve to death, instead of consuming the wild beasts God provided?  Would anyone deny hunting to those tiny communities in Alaska whereas a bear or a moose feeds an entire village?  Guess what?  It takes generations of teaching this skill and a lot of practice to accomplish said goal.  A person can’t just wake up one day and know what to do and the ethical practices with respect to hunting.

FB-entry-Aunt-Heather-PiperIdea of Hunting
Hunting is not about the kill, sure that is in deed what happens, but that is not the true end result.  The absolute result is about providing food for the family; good quality, natural deer meat, which is the healthiest meat to consume and not prepackaged prepared stuff sold in the grocery stores, loaded with preservatives and toxic junk.

My family not only harvests the deer, but we butcher our own meat.  The entire process straight from the woods to the skillet.  Some of the deer meat is canned, (yes it’s very tasty) some made into jerky and bologna and most of it is cut up into steaks and roasts and ground meat to be wrapped and frozen for later consumption.

I don’t judge those who take their meat to another facility to have it butchered.  Some may not know how to cut up a deer, for they were never taught.  Or they don’t have the space and equipment to do so.  The materials for this process alone are expensive and time consuming.  I am blessed because I do know how to cut up a deer and prepare it for storage, and I have the material to do so.  In fact, dad and I are pretty quick at gutting and skinning the deer in the woods and when needed, sectioning it up, especially if it’s freezing cold outside!

From there, my parents have the all the equipment to cut up the meat into steaks, roasts, ground meat, bologna etc, nothing gets wasted.  Growing up, my parents didn’t have much.  No exaggeration.  For my mom to buy box cereal was a luxury item.  However, we never went hungry and my family never asked for a hand out, and no one ever paid our way, not even the government.  Nope, instead we relied on hard work with our garden and hunting to provide food for the table.  Hunting was a means for survival, like it was designed to be.  It was never about the kill but about providing for the table.  Sure it’s also a favorite pastime and hobby, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining necessity and fun.

Benny-Chad-Jimmy-Scanlon-Hunting-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Cousins Benny, Chad & Jimmy Scanlon. Chad passed away from a brain tumor 9/4/94 – 5/25/07. They captured every moment they could before his passing.

Picture Taking
Getting back to the idea of taking a picture with the trophy of the hunt.  Taking a picture not only records the actions at that present, but it also captures memories and the reality of survival.  So when I post a picture of me or my nephew or whoever, with a freshly harvested deer, it’s not about showing off death and killing, but pride for being able to be a part of providing for the family.  That is a true honor, which I wish more people would be able to experience.  For if they did, others would learn to respect firearms and their food source more.  Same with gardening.  If more people solely, or mostly lived off of their hard word with gardening, there would be a greater respect for fresh food and healthy eating.

Granted, when my dad was young, picture taking was a rarity (not only because dad didn’t and still doesn’t’ know how to work a camera or phone) because of the generation.  They didn’t have social media, but they did share stories and passing around the horns of the kill instead of taking pictures.  That’s how to teach younger generations to learn what to do and what to expect, through visuals.

Did you know some kids truly don’t know where meat come from?  In some ways, we as a society are becoming to removed from reality.  It’s not healthy and damaging.

I cherish every picture I have of my brother, especially those with my dad and him in the woods, doing what they both loved, hunting.

Above is a picture of my cousins (Benny and Jimmy’s mother was Helen Piper).  The youngest in the picture is Chad Scanlon, my thirteen year old cousin who passed away from a brain tumor.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Story They tried to capture every moment of his short life.  Can you blame them?  Life happens quickly, I wish I would have captured more pictures of Ryan in the woods hunting, with or without the harvested animals.

Keeping Traditions
Hunting is a tradition, a long honored tradition in the Piper family, regardless of gender.  Everyone is treated the same, no one is snubbed in our family when it comes to hunting.  It was always a family activity, my mom, sister, brother, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles and now my nephew.  All aspects of hunting have been learned from generations before.  In fact, my one rifle was handed down from my pap, to my brother, and after his passing, to me.  Eventually, the rifle will end up in Kyle’s hands, Ryan’s son.

There is more to hunting than going out with a rifle, and plugging a deer.  Nope, first is starts with learning to load the shells, shoot, and clean and maintain the firearms.

Loading
All summer long we load our own shells with the exception of .22 bullets, and target shoot at the range.  Loading our own rifle shells is a science and is becoming a lost art.  Recently, I was made aware that not a lot of people know this practice.  Well, I do!  And Kyle does.  Dad has made it a point to pass down his knowledge of loading to us, like he did with Ryan.  It’s really important to dad to keep this tradition alive, and for that I am very grateful.  The more I learn, the more hunting means to me and I appreciate.

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Kyle at the shooting range practicing with bowling pins. 11/10/13

Learning to Shoot
Even target shooting is a real skill.  Sure, it sounds easy going out in the woods and pulling the trigger.  That’s the basis of the action, but there is so much more to it than that.  First, learning to shoot at various distances is a practiced skill.  And learning to shoot through a scope is a big difference between shooting with open sights.

Sometimes the rifle isn’t shooting straight and learning to shoot in a gun to line up the sights properly is another skill.  Yes, there are methods such as taking the rifle to get it boresighted, but that’s not always a guarantee for shooting dead on.

Then, there’s different ways to shoot, off of a guide like a bi-pod or tri-pod, or free standing.  There’s a difference between fifty yards and two hundred yards.  I myself am pretty good up to two hundred yards, at the target range.  There’s a big difference between shooting at a piece of paper with a cross-hair marked in red, and a moving one in the woods.

The woods contain a ton of obstacles including brush and weather conditions and time.  That’s the hardest part for me, waiting, quietly.  Sometimes it takes hours and hours before a deers makes its appearance, if at all.  The deer don’t just show up at a convenient location and wait around for someone to shoot either.  Nope.  They could be running, walking, either head on, walking away or moving side to side, which is ideal to shooting the deer in the front shoulder.  My dad has taught me to drop a deer with one shot, and you know what?  Every time I’ve shot a deer, I dropped it with one bullet, within a minute from the bullet exiting the barrel of my gun.  (please note, I’ve only ever shot three deer to date, and there were misses in there too).  However, it doesn’t always work out that way, even with a seasoned professional like my dad.

Sometimes bullets will ricochet off of brush or trees and cause the bullet to miss it’s intended target spot, or the target wasn’t standing in the ideal angle for a perfect kill. With every bullet fired, dad investigates the potential death of the deer, especially if it’s wounded.  Dad has always, and even in his older age, continues to track EVERY wounded deer, even if it results in miles and miles of tracking.  Dad doesn’t believe in shooting an animal to let it suffer or waste the meat.

Tacking
Even learning to track a deer can be a challenge.  Sure, it’s not so bad when it’s snowing and there is a lot of blood loss, but try it when there’s no mud trail or blood trail and possibly a lot of brush to tackle.

Respecting the Rules
Then, there’s knowing what you are shooting within seconds before pulling the trigger.  Sometimes it’s only buck season, or the rules dictate a certain number of points on the horns.   Rules?  Yes, there are formal rules maintained by the Game Commission and there are unspoken rules, ones that aren’t necessarily illegal, just respectful.  Like what?  Shooting a deer that is bedded down is not very sporting. Shooting a very young deer is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to waste is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to suffer on purpose is not very sporting.

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Kyle & Scooby playing on the trail cam. 1/9/11

Learning the Deer Habits
Even before a shot is fired, learning the habits of the deer should be addressed.  Usually we go hiking through the woods in the summer and or fall, preparing for hunting season, following tracks, taking note of rub marks on trees, looking for bedded down grass or weeds where they hunker down, so on and so forth.  Even when sitting during hunting season, deer don’t just jump out waving a flag.

Many times, the hunter needs to have a three hundred sixty degree awareness for all moving animals in the area.  Sometimes looking a couple hundred yards, through crooked trees and brush and branches over rocks into valleys or up hillsides, for an animal that might be creeping like a ninja.  Did I mention sometimes it’s snowing or raining or the sun is shinning in the eyes, not always perfect conditions?

Tree Stands
Tree stands are a relatively new tool used by hunters.  They were more common during archery season, but have been adapted to rifle season as well.  When I was a youngster learning to hunt in the woods, I would sit on a log or a rock.  I was also taught to hunt while walking through the woods, like my dad did for many years.  Or course, it’s a harder on my sixty-some-year-old dad to do that nowadays.  Sure, being in a tree stand does have its advantages, but not always.

Cleaning the Rifles
Throughout the year, the rifles are cleaned and maintained.  Dad has taught us all the proper way to clean and oil our guns, in a safe manner. Usually this is done late summer before hunting season, depending on how much the firearm was shot.

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Dad & Kyle at target range, shooting in rifles. 8/25/13

Family Bonding
Like dad, I too love being out in the woods, sitting in nature.  It’s very peaceful and serene.  That I chalk up to being a Piper.

Some of my favorite memories with the entire family include hunting.  Even to this day, every time we head to the woods, whether hunting or not, dad always seems to reminiscence about Ryan and their time together in the woods.  Those memories are priceless.  Even my First Day of Hunting – My Story was an adventure that still cracks me up to this day.  Not to mention all the stories I can tell about Kyle and his own hunting adventures with us.

Hunting isn’t something that started with my dad’s generation, or my pap’s generation, but generations upon generations before.  This is the means people have practiced for survival since the beginning of time. It saddens me to see these true traditions are slipping away to the unknown or criticized when they are a part of everyone’s roots, like it or not.  My dad is a true hunter, even in his older age.  He has this sense about him that can’t be taught, but is either innately built in or has been engrained over the years.  Something I haven’t seen a lot of, something I wish I possessed.

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A portion of the woods in Cortland, New York for deer season. 11/15/14

Granted, I didn’t address everything including safety, pushing deer, and all about sportsmanship.  But after going through all this, I believe taking a picture of my hard work is justifiable.  Perhaps, many people don’t like to view these images and prefer to live in ignorance with blinders on.  If the pictures are offensive, hiding the posts are in everyone’s right.  But remember, it’s all about the intent of the action, not the perceived intent, but the actual intent.  I don’t believe the pictures I’ve seen are malicious in any way, simply a picture of accomplishment.

I would never choke my way of life down anyone’s throat, never.  But I also would never speak out against something I don’t understand or have never experienced.  God made us all different so we would rely on each other and learn from one another.  (As long as what we’re doing it morally responsible)  Personally, I invite anyone that criticizes or speaks ill of hunting, that has not experience the tradition, to join me for one hunting season.  Not to shoot, but to assist me in most aspects that I’ve discussed, at least before speaking out negatively with the time honored practice.

Sure not a lot of hunters know what I have been taught, and there are a lot of hunters who give hunting a bad reputation, but the only way to change that is to maintain the true way of hunting, and to pass along the respect I have been taught to the young generations.  Happy Hunting!

On a side note, Hunting-of-a-Lifetime does a lot with kids dealing with terminal diseases.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund sponsors a youngster every year who always wanted to hunt.  I believe the families of these kids cherish the pictures of their child with the harvested animal.

 

This is a great article with respect to hunting.

www.fox23.com_f90cd3f076f74cdb89dfb24d35c86acd

 

 

*Look for another post telling about my adventures hunting with dad in New York this past weekend.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Truly Understanding A Family’s Pain

Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.  ~Ben Jonson

Kyle-fishing-with-Aunt-Nikki-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2005

Kyle fishing wearing his Penn State shirt (courtesy of Aunt Nikki) with his pappy, me, Aunt Nikki & Gigi (took the picture) 7/2005

This past weekend dad and I were in New York setting up a tree stand and getting ready for deer season.  As I’ve mentioned before, the New York season starts a week or two before ours in Pennsylvania, so we always get our tags and head up to hunt.  On our way back from Cortland, dad got a call from a guy he works with, informing dad of some horrible news.  Dad’s good friend Mike, another one of dad’s co-workers and a guy I’ve hunted on his property, lost his son Friday night in a car accident.  What?

Yes.  It was one of those moments when the past came rushing back and instantly depression fell over both of us.  For a brief moment, it wasn’t about Mike and his family, it was our family that was reliving a tragedy that happened nearly 13 years ago this October.  It was the phone call that changed everything, it was dad traveling to get back home after hearing the news, it was shock and a devastation that took us all off guard and permanently changed our lives.

Then, to find out Mike’s son had a little boy too.  Seriously?  Yes.  I’m not sure of the age of the child but that poor little munchkin will be following in Kyle’s footsteps of loosing his dad too early in life and only knowing him through stories.  That breaks my heart more than you can imagine.

There are no words that can be said to ease the family’s pain and help lesson the blow and gradually move them into reality.  None.  I know personally.  What they need are prayers, a lot of prayers, and support when asked.  Sometimes the best way to help, at least from my experience, was to keep a distance and being there when called upon, for they will reach out.  It may take them a while and it may be in a way that is unconventional, but it will happen.

They first need to get used to the new direction of their life and deal with the stress, the sadness, the confusion, the anger and everything in between on their own.  Then, their next obstacle will be dealing with the holidays and memories and accepting life as it is.  That is until they get to a point of possibly addressing the deceased belongings and such.  Believe it or not, another horrible pain, all a reminder of what used to be and what will never be again.

Is this immediate?  No, the emotional roller-coaster ride will go on for years, I still deal with it presently.  Like it or not the holidays arrive and leave.  Sometimes I slept through them and sometimes I dealt with them by visiting Ryan in the cemetery.  Naturally having Kyle helped ease some pain and almost made these celebrated seasons enjoyable.  As for the belongings, it took me a few years before I really went through Ryan’s stuff and organized it and made sense of it all.  I never got rid of anything of Ryan’s, in fact I boxed it up waiting till the time was right to give it to Kyle, if he wanted anything.  Of course, we didn’t even really need to do this, but we wanted to turn Ryan’s old room into Kyle’s, resulting in the need to make room for Kyle’s “stuff”.  And let me tell you, there’s a lot of “stuff”.  It seems like every year he accumulates more, even though every year we give a ton to St. Vincent de Paul.

I know others may have it worse, but this one is a little too close to home for my liking.  I always said, I never wished anyone to go through what we did.  At least, I’ve always had my family for support.  From the beginning, my family has been tight and held together through the entire tragedy of loosing Ryan, barely but we did it.  I pray Mike and his family remain as such and reach out to other friends and family for support when it’s right for them.  As time passes, it will never be easy, NEVER, but life will become manageable, at least in short segments at first.  Ryan, We Miss You!

I chose not to use full names or even mention names out of respect for the family.  I didn’t want to bother them with asking permission to write this blog and I didn’t want to bring additional attention to their situation.  I do however want to flood them with prayers and well wishes.  I want them to have some peace, the next week is going to get even worse before the healing begins.

Please everyone say a pray for this family and the newly deceased.  God speed.

I would also like to send thoughts and prayers to my cousin Roxanne who just lost her mom.  It was a long battle with cancer, which Roxanne sat by her side and took care of her mother until the very end.  My heart is broken for my sincere and wonderful cousin who only a few short years ago lost her dad too.  She’s been through enough.  Also please pray for her and her family’s peace.  God speed.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

First Day of Hunting – Ryan’s Story

When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.  ~Henry David Thoreau
Ryan-Piper-Buck-12-2-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan’s buck, 10 pts about 19″ spread. 1st buck! 12/2/92

Since it’s Christmas Eve day and we are all missing Ryan terribly, and since I was recently reliving our hunting tales from 2013, I thought I’d continue.  I never told the stories of Ryan’s hunting expeditions, especially his first year.

Ryan practically grew up in the woods, exposed to hunting since he was two years old.  No joke!  Ever since he was potty trained and able to walk around, dad took Ryan with him hunting.  So even though Ryan never shot a deer until he was twelve, he had a decade of experience in the woods tracking, gutting, dragging and skinning deer.

Ryan went with me and Nicole on our first hunting adventures, walking around pushing deer with dad.  Wherever you found dad, Ryan was attached to him.  Seriously, almost all the time.  So by the time Ryan found his way to heaven, it made dad’s favorite hobby, (for a lack of better term, even though hunting is more of a way of life with dad then a side hobby) that much harder to enjoy.  Well, that is until Kyle became of age and I got back into hunting.  Now hunting is truly enjoyable again.

This year, more than others, dad started telling all the Ryan hunting tales of years past.  I mean it, dad could drive by some hillside in Green County or Westmoreland County or even Cortland, New York, and comment ‘We shot a lot of turkey up there.’ or ‘Ryan shot a nice size doe over there.’ and so on and so forth.  He did it the entire time!  It was nice seeing all the hunting areas dad and Ryan trekked together.  To be honest, I had no idea just how many hunting adventures and how many different spots Ryan and dad ventured.  Definitely more than I could ever correctly repeat.

Ryan-Buck-19-inch-spread-10-points-Aunt-Heather-Piper-12-2-1992-hunting

Ryan’s 1st buck, 10 pts, about 19″ spread. Deer hunting was on of his favorite activities 12/2/92

While me, dad and Kyle were hunting this year, Kyle took a shot at a small buck, and dropped it on one shot!  The adrenaline was working its magic, because Kyle wanted to plug it with another bullet.  Apparently, dad said, “Nope, you got ‘er buddy!”  Dad said it was a great shot in the shoulder, it looked like he took a sledge hammer to the deer, quick and painless, hopefully for the deer.  That deer gave us a nice supply of deer meat for the freezer.

Ryan-Buck-deer hunting 12-2-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Close-up of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread 12/2/92

The first year Ryan went hunting, naturally dad took him.  Alas, at that point I had already turned in my license or the year after, to only return many years later.  Dad said, “When your daddy shot his first deer (doe) I had to laugh, it was full of holes!”  Kyle and I both laughed at that comment.  Ryan must have been so nervous to drop it, he shot the deer up.  Dad commented, “I had to throw away the hide, I couldn’t sell it ’cause it was so full of holes.”

That statement intrigued Kyle, our little banker.  I totally forgot, dad used to sell the deer hides from the season.  In recent years, he has since retired that action.  Probably without the extra help of Ryan, it’s a lot of work.  Maybe that might be something I’m willing to get back into again.  I do believe Kyle would enjoy selling the hides.

Ryan-Piper-Buck-sideshot-12-2-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper deer hunting

A side view of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread, way to go! 12/2/92

Now the best story ever!  Ryan’s first buck.  Do I remember it?  You bet!  Only because it was such a prize.  Dad had my cousin’s Jeremy and Chad with him, as well as Ryan hunting.  I’m not sure if anyone else was present.  But the story goes, dad instructed Ryan to reload his gun, whereas my cousins did not, just in case they saw something.  Never question my dad, Mr. Grizzly Adams himself.  Like I’ve said before, he speaks deer.  Well, wherever they were hunting, no clue, but out pops this buck and since Ryan was locked and loaded, he took it down.  I remember that day, crystal clear.  I recollect the guys all coming back to mom and dad’s house to skin their deer and for their photo ops.  Ryan was beaming, but not nearly as much as dad.  Boy was he happy and proud of Ryan!

Ryans-horns-&-gun-rack-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Those are Ryan’s horns from his first buck! Below is the gun rack Ryan made in high school. The feature was from our trip to Cortland, NY to move dad’s tree stand. Taken 12/24/13

Later, dad had Ryan’s horns from his prize buck mounted, which now resides in dad’s office across from his loading desk, above the gun rack Ryan made in high school and right beside the gun cabinet Uncle Walter made for dad one Christmas as a gift from mom.

I do wish Ryan was around to take Kyle hunting.  There’s no doubt, that Ryan would have treated Kyle like dad treated Ryan.  But Kyle is very blessed to have his pappy around to show him the ropes of hunting, fishing, loading, tracking and even trapping (Kyle has expressed an interest in, even though dad hasn’t trapped for a really long time).

Christmas always carry’s a different type of tradition, an almost unspoken one.  You see, since deer season is so close to the holidays, most of the tales within the woods are fresh on everyone’s minds.  Usually when we get together with family, all the hunting stories come to life.  All of them!  Silly, serious, unbelievable and all true.  Deer hunting is more than killing wild animals, it’s more than proving meat for the family, it about family time too.  Priceless, quality time together in nature!

Read other adventures in Hunting

Deer Hunter, Kyle’s First Deer
Hunter’s Safety Course – Passed!
Hunting – Survival or Sport?
First Day of Hunting- Kyle’s Story

First Day of Hunting – My Story

Hunting Adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.  ~L.M. Montgomery

Cabin-my-brother-&-cousins-built-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Another shot of the cabin, hanging out, relaxed & peaceful. I sat on the steps for a few minutes watching deer & remembering the stories that surfaced from this place…. 2013

… Continued Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

On Wednesday, dad and I hunted on a friend of mine’s property.  My friend Susan was kind enough to let us take a shot at some new surroundings.  Pun totally intended!  Her kids shared the knowledge of a few buck sightings.  Why not?  We haven’t had any luck at this point, at least not in Pennsylvania.  Did we see anything?  Dad did!  But he said it wasn’t a legal buck, so no shot.  If Kyle was with him, Kyle would have been able to shoot, since he is not limited to the number of points.  Even though we came back unsuccessful, we found our new hunting spot for next year.  Dad and I both LOVE the area.  There are plenty of deer and it’s really a nice piece of property.  Not the cliff of death with spiderweb brush to get caught up in, like Green County.  And not that far away, maybe forty-five minutes.  Dad can also get around on his quad safely and I must admit, walking was a lot easier and very enjoyable.  Can’t wait for next year!

By Saturday, Kyle joined us back in the woods by my parent’s house in Westmoreland County, on my cousin’s property.  Finally, we were blessed with a fresh coating of white fluffy snow!  It really was so peaceful and pretty.  Early that morning dad and I saw a couple of deer running down through the woods, but no shot was obtainable at that angle.  Saturday opened up doe season.  We were permitted to shoot buck (three points on one side) and doe.

I’m beginning to think it’s not me that causes our adventures, it’s Kyle!  While sitting on a log, Kyle wanted to walk back to the house to use the restroom and grab a quick bite.   Anyone and everyone who knows dad, is well aware he doesn’t stop hunting for anything, not for food, not for drink, for nothing unless he drops a deer and is dragging it out of the woods.  Kyle was in shock over this revelation but wouldn’t give in.  Naturally, I was elected to head back with our halfway hunter, even though I wanted to stay and hunt.

While Kyle was doing his business I made a thermos of hot chocolate for us and I made dad a thermos of coffee.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, the hot chocolate might not have been the best decision.

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As I was pushing deer for dad during hunting season, I walked past the cabin (a.k.a. the party shack) that my brother & cousins built. Why? For no reason … very peaceful 2013

When I finally got back to dad, taking a different route to try and push the deer in his direction from lower on the hill, I gave dad his coffee to warm him up a bit.  Dad asked “Where’s Kyle?”  Replying while I rolled my eyes, “No clue, probably a mile down the road.  You know how slow he moves and he knows the way.”  A few minutes later dad said, “I’m going to walk over to the other side of the road to look to see if anything is moving.”  Just then, here comes our great white hunter, dragging his feet up the road.  Dad turned to me and said, “Never mind.  If there was anything, they’re gone.”  That was so funny!   I did give a chuckle, as dad rolled his eyes and grinned.  We love our Kyle to death, but he can be challenging.

So we sat, and sat, waiting for movement.  Nothing.  Then Kyle takes out the thermos of hot chocolate, clicks the cap to get the liquid rolling, blows (loudly) to cool it down, then slurps up the warm drink.  Dad turned to look in our direction with a look of, ‘What is going on over there?’  It was Kyle drinking his hot chocolate as loudly as he drags his feet.  Dad was starting to loose his cool.  As per reading dad’s body language, I told Kyle to put it away and don’t get it out again.  I couldn’t believe how loud he was!  Of course looking back on it now, we can laugh over the situation, but not when the pressure was on and no deer dropped in Pa.

Dad and I continued to hunt on Monday and Tuesday.  No luck, but a lot of snow!  We went around my parents house.  I walked a few miles each day, trying to push deer, but nothing.  I love those woods, I am very familiar with them and it’s really nice stepping out the door and walking or riding the quad to our hunting spots.

Dad continued to hunt Wednesday morning.  It was more of an adventure when the dogs got out and decided to go on a day trip.  It was even better when dad and I saw them head up through my cousin’s field and they ignored dad yelling, turned and headed up through the woods.  Dad was like lightening on the quad after them, like he was the lone ranger.  Those stinkers eluded dad all the way up onto Frosty Lane.  The chase was on.  Even Gigi was calling from work while she was tracking them, as was I.  While this was going on, I would call and give dad the valuable intel of their location.  Dad said once he rounded the bend and saw Scooby, he dropped his head like ‘We’ve been discovered, our fun has come to an end.”  You see during hunting season, it’s happened when hunters will shoot the beloved four-legged friends, especially if the dogs were chasing deer.  Mean, I know!  Something none of us would EVER do, but it has happened and we desperately didn’t want to experience it for ourselves.

While tracking them I realized our boys went a lot further than we’ve ever seen them.  They also seemed to follow my lead, the same course I was pushing deer for dad from the day prior.  Obviously the dogs were mad because we kept leaving them in the house while we went through the woods hunting.  What a pair of spoiled dogs!

All in all, it was a pretty good year.  God blessed us with a buck and a doe, dad shot and a buck Kyle shot.  That meat is already butchered, wrapped and awaiting to be called upon from the freezer to be made into a meal.  Yes we gut, skin and butcher our own deer, every year.  That way you are certain it is done right and it’s your deer, no question.

Even though it was an unsuccessful hunting year for me personally, it was a great year!  Kyle and dad filled their tags and we all had a great time hanging out with each other.  Family time, nothing beats it!  There’s always next year.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

One eye sees, the other feels.  ~Paul Klee

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Kyle’s buck, way to go buddy!! 2013

…Continued Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

New York hunting always starts before Pennsylvania hunting, which increases our odds of filling the freezer with meat.  In Pennsylvania, the first day of buck is the first Monday after Thanksgiving.  The day of excitement!  Generally speaking, most schools in Western Pennsylvania give kids that Monday off, simply because a lot of kids hunt, including Kyle.

The Saturday before hunting season started this year, dad had me and Kyle went to the property where dad hunts in Green County.    What town?  I have no clue where I was except we had to pass through Waynesburg to get there.  All I knew, we had to take down yet another tree stand, and move it up hill.  Up this steep hill.  Up the steep hill with no clear path.  Did I mention it was up hill and the hill was steep?  Plus the ground was soft and muddy, which didn’t make the move easy.  Once dad picked his new spot, (sometimes that takes a while for him to evaluate his surroundings and pick the perfect tree) I had to get back in the tree stand and secure it.  I’m actually getting pretty good at it especially after What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand and What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued.

Now for the directions to my pre-chosen hunting spot, courtesy of dad.  The old man wanted me to find the tree stand before hunting so I was acclimated to the area.  Actually, great idea!  He also wanted me to physically sit in the tree stand, ensuring it was stable and secure.  Ok, good thinking!  Now for the directions to the Directionally Challenged, Dad said:

Follow this path up and at the large poplar tree make a left, go up the hill and off to the left you’ll see the tree stand facing uphill.

Again, there wasn’t really a clear path.  And, in a forest full of trees, which I’m sure there are more than one poplar tree, I had to find a big one.  What kind of directions are these?  Granted, it was daylight this time, but still sometimes looking for a black camouflaged tree stand can be tricky.  Again, Ryan must have came down from heaven to point out the tree, because when I saw it, I knew that was the one dad was referring to.  At one point, Kyle trekked up to see what I was up to, and I could  tell he was given the same instructions.  Luckily, he saw me in the tree and made a straight path for my stand.  When we left together, Kyle questioned, “Is that the big poplar tree pappy was talking about?”  I laughed and said, “I guess so.”

You think these types of directions are rare?  Nope!  Even up by my parents house dad’s directions include, “Out by the big poplar tree.” and “Over by the huge oak off the bank.” and “Beside the birch trees” and so on and so forth.  Dad’s lucky I usually can identify the trees, but not always.  I didn’t work in the woods my entire life like he did.  To dad, each tree is as unique as a street sign.

Monday, the first day of buck in Pa.!  I will admit, it was a long day.  Not only did it take us about an hour and a half to get to our hunting spot in Green County, plus the return trip, but we had to basically make our way up a cliff in the mud to get to our tree stands.  With every step uphill, we slid back two.  My tree stand, which used to be Ryan’s was furthest up the hill, past dad and Kyle’s hunting spot.  I’ll give dad credit, I’m in reasonable shape and my breath was labored walking up the path through the woods and handled the trip like a champ.  Good old Kyle was huffing and puffing along the way.

Usually the first day of buck is exciting, not this time.  There was almost no one hunting, which means no one pushing the deer either.  I did see a couple of doe up further on the hillside, but again we were only allowed to shoot buck and they had to have two points plus the brow point.  Dad and Kyle saw NOTHING!  Boring!

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Kyle & his hot chocolate.. I’ve never heard someone make so much noise with their drink before! 12/7/13

On a side, there were a bunch of turkeys making another ruckus.  Not as many as Our Hunting Adventures … New York but enough to bring a smile to my face.

Kyle always seems to make the days interesting.  One of the trips to see me, he came straight up in my tree stand, pushed me aside and plopped himself down.  It look like he just set up camp!  We were both cracking up, just because he seriously is so funny!

Then, I could tell he couldn’t wait to share his experience with me, probably because he knew I would get a kick out of it.  Which I totally did!

Kyle started by saying, “Well, Aunt Heather let me tell you about my morning.”  Seriously?  What a trip!  He continued, “First pappy knocked my bag, with all of my food off the tree stand onto the ground.  Then, I got deer poop on my hand.”  As he was showing me his hand (cleaned).  What!  What?  “Kyle, how on earth did you get deer poop on your hand in a tree stand?”  I was seriously wondering what the heck those two were doing.  Kyle said dramatically, “Well, when I was climbing up the ladder to get back in the tree stand, pappy must have tramped in deer poop and got it on the ladder and I put my hand in it.”  Gross!  Even worse, he knew I was totally grossed out and he continued on about the deer poop story.  “Ya and pappy had to pour my water onto my hand so we could get it out.”  I’m trying not to fall out of my stand laughing at this kid!  Then, the ultimate, he kept touching my arm with THE hand.  I said, “Stop touching me with the poop hand!”  He must have thought that was an invitation because he began patting me on the head with THE hand.

Later, dad retold the story and said, “That kid!  And how did he know I was the one who tramped in the deer poop, the deer scat?  No, it couldn’t have been him?” (sarcasm) On a side note, we find humor in calling the deer poop, scat.  So we exaggerate that word every time we see it or reference it.  Dad elaborated, “Ya we had to use all the water and you should have seen him scrubbing his hand and wiping it on me.  That kid!”  That’s our Kyle.

After, we calmed down, Kyle decides he has to go to the bathroom.  What?  Now the truth comes out.  He didn’t just visit me to see how I was doing, he came up so I would hang with him while he went to the bathroom in the woods.  You see dad said, “If you have to go to the bathroom, you’re walking back to the truck and doing it there.  I don’t want you going [to the bathroom] around our tree stands and hunting areas.”  Reiterating dad, I said, “You’re not going here! Go back to the truck, it’s not that far.”  Hesitantly, “Ya but I’ll probably get lost, I’ll just go around here.”  What?  No!

So what did I do?  I walked him up and over the hill, which happened to be the property line and let him use that area.  “Kyle I’m going back to the tree stand, when you’re done, go back the way you came, OK?”  He also commented, “Don’t tell pap until we get back to the truck.”  With my reply, “Ya right!   I’m tell him as soon as I see him.”  In my mind, I’m also telling his Aunt Nikki and Gigi about the situation.  Obviously he didn’t want to tell pappy and have to walk to the truck.

A little while later, I thought I saw Kyle at the top of the hill, walking down the wrong side, but then he disappeared.  Only to reappear again, standing at the top of the hill looking around.  I was cracking up, the kid got lost!  Finally, he was looking in my direction and I waved.  Kyle waved back!  Too funny!  Seriously, how can he not see me?  I’m up in a tree, probably close to his eye level, just a little distance away, wearing bright orange!  I stand out like a sore thumb.  Whatever.

Once he made his way back, he jumped up in my tree stand to confess the obvious.  I couldn’t resist asking, “Did you get lost?”  He smiled and confirmed my suspicion while we giggled over his actions before heading back to hang with his pap.

Leaving the day defeated, but having a truly fun day, we headed home.  Later on, we found out there wasn’t any action going on around my parents house either.  No one was seeing deer this year and especially not bucks.  How can that be?  There are at least a dozen or so dead deer along side the highways?

Dad and I went back to Green County to try our luck on Tuesday.  The same old nothing, however I did see the same couple of doe in about the same location.  But aside from that, zip!   I even hiked the hillside trying to push the deer out for dad.  Let me tell you, my butt and quads were burning!  That is one steep hillside and it was full of thick brush, which makes it really hard to walk through.  Tuesday heated up a bit and no movement from the deer.

Actually the only excitement came from dad.  Some hunter on the adjacent property, which apparently dad had words with in previous years, cut through the hunting area were dad and I were sitting, to try and push deer onto his property.  Dad yelled at him to stay on his own property and that was the last of it.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

One day in the country
Is worth a month in town  ~Christina Rossetti

Kyles-buck-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s buck of 2013 .. Good job buddy!

… Continued Our Hunting Adventures … New York

It’s always an adventure with the Piper clan.  On Sunday morning, November 17th, when it was still pretty dark, I saw an animal with a very bright white, almost glowing fur coat, sneaking around the forest floor below me.  It was kind of the size of a squirrel, but didn’t move like a squirrel.  In fact, it moved more like a ferret.  Keep in mind it’s still pretty dark, but I could see the critter clearly.  Being completely intrigued I watched it move around for a good fifteen or twenty minutes with my flashlight, seeing what it was up to and trying to get a good look at it.  I really wanted to identify the unknown animal.  After it moved on, I forgot all about the creature until we were back at the motel room and I described it to dad.  Apparently,  I saw a weasel.  Too cool!  This is a perk about hunting, not to mention the sounds of nature, being out in the fresh air, seeing the beauty God has provided, harvesting meat for the table, but also seeing these creatures, which I would normally never see.

We were blessed on Saturday with mild weather.  Actually, a perfect hunting day.  Sunday was a mix of rain and rain and wind.  Monday wasn’t too bad, just windy.  We were all hoping for snow, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Why snow?  It makes it so much easier to see the deer and to hear them.  Plus, the woods are so pretty when it snows, especially when the branches catch the white powder appearing as if the snow is held in mid air.  I love the outlining effect of the trees in white, like the snow stretched up from the ground to fill the tips of the trees.  Love it!

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Dad & Kyle hunting in Green County. Kyle was probably dragging his feet through the leaves…our little Peeta! 12/2/13

On Saturday, I had a chance at a small buck in the brush.  As I lined it up in my sights, I remember dad saying, “If your gonna shoot, make sure you have a good shot and shoot it in the shoulder to take it down.  We don’t want to have to track the deer.”  You see dad doesn’t believe in unloading your gun on one deer.  Line up your target and then take your shot.  If you need a second bullet then use it, but not your entire arsenal.  He feels you should get it on one shot, which usually he does!

As I watched the buck move swiftly through the brush, I looked ahead to see an opening in a direct line with his path.  Perfect!  I thought I’ll wait for the deer to walk into the clearing and then take it down with one clean shot.  As I watched the buck go behind the trees, I noticed it never came out to my preplanned drop zone.  As I tracked it in my scope, I saw the buck turned and walked up over the hill!  What?  When I saw this, the only shot I had was between the trees, through the brush and at its rear-end.  Not good!  That’s not an appropriate shot and one I would never take.  If I’m taking a shot it’s to drop the deer and not have it suffer and run off.  Can you believe it?  Apparently, the buck didn’t get the memo to keep walking straight into my line of sight!  O well.  Looking back on it now, dad and I both agree I should have just taken the shot in the brush.  Dad commented, “You never know unless you try.”  Good point old man!

When it comes to deer hunting, there is no one I trust more than dad.  He has dropped hundreds of deer from the time he was nine years old.  Plus, he’s been a woodsman most of his life and he seems to speak deer.  Really!  He has this sixth sense about them, like he can read their minds.  He is a truly great hunter!

Once Saturday came and left, Sunday arrived.  After sitting for most of the morning seeing nothing, to break up the day, I headed down the hill toward dad and Kyle.  Once I got there, dad had us walk around to see if we could push the deer.  Finally, dad gets me!  He’s starting to catch on to Kyle too, realizing we can’t sit for too long, we get antsy and silly and loose focus.  All the things dad is not keen on in the woods. He takes hunting very seriously, rightfully so.

On another side note, in New York it is legal to hunt on Sunday, not like Pennsylvania.  So we were able to hunt all weekend into Monday.

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Dad hunting in Jim’s woods … we finally got snow! 12/7/13

Did we see any deer on Sunday?  Nope, but with my little man making a herd of noise, I couldn’t image why not.  I was watching Kyle walk through the leaves.  Instead of picking up his feet, he was dragging them through the forest floor!  What?  Eventually, I started to loose my patience snapping at the kid, “Pick up your feet Kyle!”  With a response of “I am Aunt Heather!”  After walking a few feet and standing there waiting on my slow poke noise maker to catch up, Kyle started to chuckle and said, “Call me Peeta!”  I was dying!  That was too funny!  Perfect reference to The Hunger Games.  Unbeknownst to my friend Kelly, she texted me that night asking how Katniss, referencing me, was doing on my hunting expedition.  Later I told her, perfect timing of her text and seriously how funny it was.  Good one guys!

After leaving dad and Kyle and heading back up the hill, the very steep and butt burning hill, and after getting slightly twisted around, I had another opportunity in the form of a doe.  I was on the ground and was getting situated when I saw a doe approach.  It was standing between trees without a good shot.  To be honest, during hunting season the deer are a bit skittish, rightfully so, and any movement will spook them.  Bringing my rifle up and resting it back down was out of the question.  I had to hold my rifle up until she walked into sight.  By that time my arm was shaking all around and was exhausted.  Then, I took the shot… and missed!   I reloaded immediately, but again her butt was facing me as she darted out onto a different property line, leaping out of sight.  I went to the scene to see if I could start tracking some blood, but nadda.  Nothing.  No hit.  Dang!  Seriously, nothing would make me happier than to be able to provide deer meat for the family freezer.  Not to mention, it would make dad very proud and happy to see me get a deer.  That’s fine, we still have the rest of the season in Pennsylvania.

After the excitement of the day, I made my way back down to dad and Kyle, where we all jumped on the quad and headed out for the day.  This road, I was totally familiar with, since it was the same one we used in the summer when we were here moving dad’s tree stand.  What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand, What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand… Continued This road, or I should say quad path, was like a roller coaster ride, straight up the hill, uneven and washed out in some areas, and topped off with obstacles.  Let’s not forget the roads were extremely muddy from the rain and slick.  Kyle and I loaded on the back of the quad with our feet hanging over while dad drove.  Dad keeps his rifle around his neck and normally I sling mine around my body and wear it on my back, but that would mean the barrel would be pointing in Kyle’s direction.  Not good!  So Kyle positioned his rifle around his neck facing the woods and I held onto mine, pointing toward the ground.  Where they loaded?  You bet, in case we did see any deer.  It wasn’t dark yet and we had a nice little trek to get back to the truck.  Granted, we had the safety on to not chance any accidents, but the opportunity was there to take a shot at a run away deer.

Just as we got on the back of the quad, both me and Kyle, at the same time, leaned in toward each other and said, “Hang on!”  We cracked up!  Kyle said, “Pappy thinks he’s driving a tank and he’s invincible on this thing.”  I was laughing!  He was speaking the truth, yet it was seriously funny coming from his mouth and straight from his very own observation.

The entire ride on the back of the quad was a bumpy, hang on, white knuckle ride.  At one point we were so vertical, my feet could touch the ground and I had to pick them up before I scrapped mud.  Dad didn’t admit it, but I truly think we had a least one wheel off the ground.  Then, let’s discuss the swimming pool sized mud puddles.  Every time dad went through one, I thought we were going to sink to China.  Yet we made it safely through with every pass.

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Later day view from my tree stand… hunting in Cortland, NY 2013

I  hunted for half a day on Monday, before saying bye to dad and heading home.  Kyle had school and I had work to get done and dad was planning on staying until the weekend.  We had so much fun, both Kyle and I wanted to stay with dad, if for anything else to give him some company.  Even hanging out in the motel room was fun, joking around and discussing the days events.

Dad told a lot of deer hunting stories and talked about Ryan a lot.  It was therapeutic for dad and good for Kyle to hear about his dad.

Hunting in New York for years, dad and Ryan used to go up there all the time.  As we drove to and fro in the woods, dad would point out who shot what, when and how big it was.  Can dad remember that?  You bet he can!  He has no idea how old I am, but when it comes to hunting, his memory is pretty spot on.  Especially, his hunting trips with Ryan, they are his special memories.

Either that Tuesday or Wednesday, dad shot a four point buck and a doe.  The buck was pretty large, supplying us with good deer meat for the freezer.  Dad was planning on coming home Saturday night but instead pulled up Thursday mid-day.  He missed sitting in the tree stand with Kyle, his buddy.  I don’t blame him, it’s always more fun to hunt with family than by oneself.

Thanks to Larry and the New York crew for their hospitality and the adventure.  Can’t wait for next year!  I will be prepared this time.

Our Hunting Adventures … New York

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Our Hunting Adventures … New York

This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.  ~Marilynne Robinson

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-in-Green-County-Hunting-12-2013

Me & Kyle in Green County hunting… we saw nothing! Yet had fun hanging out with dad a.k.a. pap 12/2/13

As I’ve mentioned it a time or two, we are a family of hunters and recently was our prime season.  Deer season!  Yes, there is more to hunting besides deer, but deer season seems to be the most exciting and gets those not-so-diehard hunters out and about.  It’s really a lot fun!  Not the idea of killing but the idea of family time, getting back to nature and helping to supply the household with good, healthy, natural deer meat for the freezer.  Plus keeping the deer population down to help eliminate bad car accidents as a result of deer.

On Friday, November 15th, Kyle and I drove up to Cortland, New York to meet up with dad, who drove up earlier that morning.  Why did we make the six hour trip?  Deer hunting!  Yes, we got our New York tags in addition to our Green County and Westmoreland County tags in Pennsylvania.  What is really cool about New York, you are allowed to shoot buck and doe on the first day.  As opposed to Pennsylvania, where you are only allowed to hunt buck on Monday till Saturday, then anything brown is down until the season is over.  Well, actually that’s technically not the case.  Depending where one is shooting, some rules state there needs to be two points on one side plus the brow point to be counted legal, and other cases three points on one side, not including the brow.  But if you really want all the details, it’s in the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping book.  Dad’s bible throughout the season.

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The elusive tree stand Cortland, NY 2013

On a side note, I picked up Kyle from school on Friday and we headed out.  About halfway into our trip Kyle mentioned he had to relieve his bladder.  Well, so did I!  We did the thing you do alongside a dark desolate highway, in the mountains, we pulled over and watered the ground.   I let Kyle go first.  He positioned himself between the passenger door and the back passenger door facing a patch of woods.  Great idea!  Once he was done, I had him switch sides with me, while I grabbed a swatch of paper towel and followed suit.  As we proceeded to switch back to our right sides, I joked and said to Kyle, “Watch out, don’t stand where I went to the bathroom.”  as he saw the discarded paper towel on the ground.  No!  I am not typically a litter bug, but this time, with a paper towel, which will disintegrate in a heavy rain, I could live with.  As Kyle walked past my spot of nature, he asked “You wiped up the ground?”  As if he was missing some sort of etiquette.  I about died!  It never dawned on me that he didn’t know, girls take an extra step in the bathroom.  He thought I cleaned up the ground!  I was laughing!  By the time we got home I told mom.  We both lost it and laughed at Kyle’s innocence and ignorance.  LOVE that kid!!

We got up to Cortland late Friday night, about 10:00 pm or so and went straight to bed.  Dad was already sawing logs when we walked in and Kyle pretty much joined him before we arrived.  Love my side kick, but when he’s tired, he’s down!

Then, back up at 3:30 am.  Only dad!  Daylight wasn’t until 6:30 am or so and we were only about a half an hour away from our hunting destination.  Granted, we did need to make our way back to the tree stands, but getting up that early was a bit silly.  Dad was so excited, he was like a kid on Christmas morning.  He truly looks forward to hunting in New York every year, and then to have me and Kyle join him, he was elated!  It was like the old days when Ryan hunted with him.

We stayed and hunted up until Monday, around noon and had a blast every step of the way!

On Saturday, when dad was giving me direction where I was to be stationed, this was how he described it to me.  Keep in mind, I was only ever in a different part of those woods once, never in the area I was to be hunting, and it was pitch black and it was 5:00 am and I had little sleep!  Dad said:

Heather, we’ll all ride the quad back the path and then you’ll get off and walk to your tree stand.  Follow the path to where it bends towards the left about a half a mile or so until it slopes down slightly.  Keep going until you see a log down, about six inches in diameter along the side of the path.  Walk a little further down, there should be a ribbon around a tree.  On the same side is your tree stand.  You’ll see the ground is all tore up where the turkeys were scratching.  Go ahead and get in the tree stand, we’ll be down over the bank from you.  If you think the tree stand is too high and you don’t feel comfortable, then find a place on the ground to sit.  Make sure you get out of the brush.

OK, so let me get this straight, I am suppose to stay to the left, look for a log down in the woods among other trees down and find turkey tracks in the mud, in the pitch black under all the fallen dead leaves and find a black tree stand in the dark?  Right!  I just nodded and said “Alright dad.” thinking in my head, if I don’t find it in the dark, then I’ll find a nice stump and wait till it gets light to see where I’m suppose to be positioned.

Would you believe, I found the tree stand?  Yes!  In fact, it was as if Ryan came down from heaven and tapped me on the shoulder making me look toward the right.  Seriously, that’s what it felt like, to make me all of a sudden turn my flashlight toward the tree containing the deer stand.  No joke!  I totally missed the ribbon, which later I saw very small and kind of obscured.  The tree stand was higher than what I am used to, but it didn’t bother me.  To be honest, it was nice of Larry, dad’s friend who allows us to hunt on the property, to get me set up.

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1st day of deer hunting in Cortland, NY. Perfect early morning view! 2013

The first day was crazy.  Did we see deer?  You bet!  But what really cracked me up, there was about thirty turkeys behind me in the brush having a party.  They were scratching up the ground and gobbling like crazy!  At one point, I turned over my shoulder and I saw a conga line of four more turkeys joining in on the party.  They were making such a ruckus.  I kept thinking there were deer walking around me, but nope, it was the turkey party.  I couldn’t see them through the thick brush, but there was no mistaken.  I must have crashed the turkey party pad.

Now, let’s discuss the angry squirrel.  First, I’d like to state that I don’t care for squirrels, at all!  To me, they are large rodents and not appealing in the slightest.  I have no qualms shooting them during small game season.  Dad loves squirrel potpie, which is okay, not a favorite of mine like deer meat.  Well, me and this squirrel got into it.  Really!  It kept trying to climb up my tree.  I yelled at it saying “No!  You are not coming up my tree.  There is a whole forest of trees to choose from and you can’t join me.”  Apparently, the wrong thing to say, because that squirrel ran up the tree opposite to me, turned to face downward and gave a loud almost scream.  Then, it ran down the tree and across the path back towards my tree, where I slapped my hands on my lap and yelled No!  This situation continued on the same course a few times before the squirrel buckled, gave up and left me a lone.  Alone, with me and my turkey party.  That is until the next day and we went through the same routine again.  You should have heard it scream.  It was like a lady with a high pitch screech!  I’ve never heard anything like it.  It kind took me back.

It’s always an adventure with the Piper clan.  On Sunday morning, …

… to be Continued

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

One Month Flew By – Time Does Fly

But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.  ~Virgil
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Kyle & Nicole exchanging gifts at Christmas 12/24/10

Everyone finds themselves saying this at least a few times in their life, ‘Where did the time go?’  These fast few weeks, actually past month has been a whirlwind.  Just to recap, mostly for my own sanity, there was hunting in New York, then I was on set for a couple of days for a new television series shot in Pittsburgh, then Thanksgiving came and went, then hunting season for two weeks locally, then my parents Wedding Anniversary, then the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, and Christmas tree shopping with the family.  Those are just the highlights.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate on each of these as I find the time in my schedule, but I wanted to get my thoughts organized to what seriously has been going on.

This past weekend alone was busy, busy, busy.  I guess this time of year most people find that the case.  Administering to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, in Portage, Pennsylvania took up a better part of my Saturday.  Of course the days leading up in preparation for an event, is also equally time consuming.  The Portage Winterfest commissioned Thrill of the Hunt to develop and administer to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt for their Winterfest.  Great idea!
Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper
The weatherman was forecasting a huge blizzard, which really wasn’t the case, but the snow did randomly fall.  Seriously, it was so pretty!  Portage is about sixty some miles from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour and half to get there, opposite direction of Pittsburgh.  Not a huge commute, but a little bit of a challenge with snowy roads.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issues driving in the snow, at all.  But as common sense dictates, I am not invincible on the white covered roads and I needed to adjust my speed to reflect the weather, so it became a little more of a road trip.
As we were driving along, I couldn’t help but reflect on my sister’s Penn State University years.  Picking her up, bringing her back and visiting Nicole at Penn State forced us to drive past Portage with every trip.  So this little coal mining town was not foreign to me, but a familiar sign along the roadway.
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Finishing up the SpyRing Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa! Proceeds were donated to rebuild Playland! — Lain Marie Fisher, Rachel Berger-Gregg, Sarah Rosenbaum & Aaron Fish at Legion-Keener Park. 9/22/12

It was great having MaRissa accompany me on this job.  However, it was bittersweet not having my little helper right beside me.  Where was Kyle?  He had to work the soup kitchen in Latrobe for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group, and it was the last day of hunting in Pennsylvania.  Making the most of the opportunity when Kyle can’t assist me, I like to bring on new blood.  It helps me to train others and prepares me for future expansion of Thrill of the Hunt.  I’m not saying anyone that has worked for me will make Thrill of the Hunt their career choice, or maybe they will, but it does give them working experience and extra moola.  Plus it gives me an extra body and assistance.  Win, win for everyone.

When I finally rolled into town, Kyle was putting the finishing touches on with respect to the Christmas decorations at my parent’s house.  He did a great job, even lighting the candles so I had the full ambiance when I walked in the door!  It’s nice walking into a home that is decorated in the spirit of Christmas, with the fireplace on, snow covering the ground outside and still falling and my little man truly enjoying himself.  Perfect home feeling!
Shortly after settling in, we went to Saturday mass at Holy Family.  Why going out of our norm?  We chose that church because they offer an early Saturday mass.  The evening was promised to Kyle and a night in the movie theater.
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Elliott, MaRissa & Chris participating in the Thrill of the Hunt, Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for the Seton Hill University Homecoming weekend. Great job! 9/21/13

That was the moment Kyle was waiting for, literally for months, The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug.  I must say I was in complete agreement with Kyle.  I too have been waiting to see this movie with much anticipation.  We both loved The Hobbit the book and the first movie and couldn’t wait for part deux.
Usually I take Kyle to the Carmike Cinema behind Westmoreland Mall off of Route 30, however I wasn’t too keen on driving up the highway with the roads in question.  They were a mix of snow, rain and slush, teetering on brink of freezing into sheets of ice.  So we went locally to the Latrobe 30 Theatre & Cafe.  To us, we didn’t care either way, we both wanted to continue the adventure of The Hobbit.  I just wanted to do it safely with my precious cargo.
Was it worth it?  Heck yes! I’m sure I’ll talk about it later, but Kyle and I had a great time watching that movie.  Now we can’t wait for the third and final Hobbit series, scheduled for release in December of 2014.  A year from now!
On Sunday, my family went to get a Christmas tree.  Yes, we’ve never had a fake Christmas tree and will never own one.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh pine in the house.  It’s presence alone brings nature indoors and really feels good on the soul.  Plus it’s a nice continued tradition of picking out the focal point of the living-room for the Christmas season.
Later on that day, Kyle had Christmas play practice for his youth group.  Apparently, Kyle is running the lights.  While he was doing that I was getting a jump on my next scavenger hunt, Heart & Soul Scavenger Hunt.  This one if for a work Christmas party in Annapolis Maryland.  Yes, it’s outdoors!  And yes, it’s for a company that manages and administers to kidney care.  No, I didn’t call it Heart & Soul on purpose.  The title was to reflect the caring nature of these workers and the great job they do and the joy they bring to others who are sick.  I can’t wait to administer to this scavenger hunt on Tuesday!
Lots happening, lots going on, lots to look forward too.
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4

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Kyle sporting the feature we found while in Cortland, NY setting up a tree stand. How much fan can be had from a single found feature? Those are dad’s earphones when he was running the chainsaw. 8/31/13

With my previous post, I outlined the events that led us to this moment, the reason for this trip.  What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

As we moved forward, what did my eyes catch sight of?  Yes, the tree stand!  Positioned gloriously against a tree about ten feet off of the ground, dressed in camouflage burlap.  It was at that moment, I heard the angels sing Alleluia, while the sun shined on the stand as if revealing a pot of gold.  We have arrived at our destination.  Now, what did we need to do?  Ah, yes, we needed to take it down, move it up the hill and set it back up again.  Easy enough.  Not really.

Dad, took off up through the brush to scope out a new home for our tree stand.  Kyle took that as an opportunity to climb up and hang out in the elevated platform.   Me? I just stood there swatting mosquitoes until I joined dad to force him to make a quick decision, so we could wrap this adventure up and go take showers.

As I was walking away from Kyle, he yelled “Hey Aunt Heather where are you going?”  I told him to see what his pappy was doing, which was maybe one hundred fifty yards away.  Kyle said, “Wait!  I want to come, but I can’t get down by myself.”  I was cracking up!  He was too afraid to use the ladder to get down, even though he had no trouble getting up, nor playing around while sitting in the tree stand.  I gave him detailed instructions on how to safely exist the landing, but he insisted someone had to help him down.  I left him.  I know that sounds mean, but it was kind of funny and I knew he was probably safer up there than anywhere else.  What’s even funnier, he didn’t seem to mind.  Maybe a little quite time by himself was good for his soul, or not.

The whole time I was talking with dad and helping him pick a new location, Kyle would yell “Hey guys, what are you doing?” and “Hello?” then the eventually annoying “Echo, echo, echo”.  Kyle is seriously a funny kid and he doesn’t even know it.

Once dad found the perfect spot, he said, “Ok, let’s go get our buddy out of the tree and move this stand.”  He asked, “Did he climb up there all by himself?”  Yep.  Dad was pleased with that, that meant Kyle was not afraid and dad could count on Kyle to hunt in the tree stand during deer season.  Whatever!  Let’s get this show on the road.

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Me & Kyle with victorious smiles on our exhausted faces. Tree stand it up! Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Now back to the dreaded tree stand.  I guess I never thought it through, but it dawned on me as I was sitting up, hovering over the ground, looking down into briar bushes, fallen trees and Lord knows what else, that eventually the tree stand would not be secured to the tree anymore.  That is, once I unhinge it, however to do that I needed to be in the tree stand.  What a predicament!  Dad’s reply?  “No, no, you have another one down below and you’ll be partway down the ladder when you loosen that.”  Not really encouraging dad!  Of course, dad’s response to my comment about me falling was, “Well the jagger bushes will catch your fall.”  Nice.

I did manage to loosen some of the straps, but for the life of me, I really couldn’t get them to release.  So I had to send my dad, who is in his sixties and is seriously overweight up the unstable tree stand to finish removing the supports.  I stood at the bottom holding the ladder, along with Kyle, as if that was security.  I turned to Kyle and remarked, “If pappy goes you’re catching him.”  With concern on Kyle’s face he just gave me a grunt and half grin, trying to joke along while realizing the possibility.  I think we were both holding our breath and saying big prayers at this point.

We did manage to release the tree stand from the tree and get dad down safely.  Then, came the heavy lifting.  The tree stand was metal with an attached ladder.  It was heavy!  Especially after all the walking and exertion of getting it down, not to mention the realization of hauling it up a hill about one hundred and fifty yards, through tall brush, briars, unsteady ground, over fallen trees, while being mauled by mosquitoes.  Easy enough.

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Kyle snapped a picture of me getting into the tree stand. Cortland, NY 8/31/13

What was Kyle doing for the better part of this time?  I found out later he was video tapping me in the tree stand.  I’m sure, he was hoping for some action to be caught on tape.  And since that didn’t keep his interest, he continued to play with the feather.

The feature.  We found this feather while walking to get to our destination and it became the focus of our attention during down times.  I used it as a fan to help with the flying pest situation around my head, and to help get some moving air through the stuffy environment.  Kyle too found entertainment in the simple object.  That feature made it the whole way back with us.  Not just out of the woods, or to the motel, the whole way back to good old Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  It was a really neat feather.

Anyway, as we carried this beast of a stand up the hill, we almost passed up our carefully selected tree.  And let me tell you, I felt sick once we got there, as I know dad did.  Sick, as in exhaustion and dehydration.  I even sent Kyle to the quad to get us something to drink, especially dad who had to rest on a log.  That kid started to walk up the hill, (the quad was down the hill maybe fifty feet).  Kyle got lost, not lost that we didn’t know where he was, but he couldn’t find the quad at all!  Even though I pointed in the direction and I could see the lights reflecting from it through the trees.  As we watched Kyle maneuver around while resting, me and dad found that funny and called him back.

Next?  Now we had to get the tree stand up and secured, then we were told we’d be on our way.  It was a bugger getting that thing up, even to just lean it against the tree.  Dad did most of the work.  Once the tree stand was leaning, and somewhat stabilized against the tree, I climbed up in it to fully secure it.

That proved to be a bugger as well.  My arms are only so long, and trying to throw the straps around the tree, which was split, proved to be quite a tough task.  I had to lean out over the tree stand to grab the straps.  Did I mention it was only standing upright because it was leaning on the tree and we were on a light hill?  I told the old man, he better hold onto the ladder, because if I’d go flying and I can’t work, Aunt Nikki won’t be too happy.  He just laughed and said, “O you’ll be alright.  Come on, once we get the straps on, we’re done and we can leave.”  Score!

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Kyle made his way up the tree stand & then couldn’t get back down. He enjoyed it up there… Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Eventually, I got the straps around the tree to give the tree stand some stability.  Naturally, I couldn’t tighten the clamps like dad, so dad had to get up there to thoroughly secure the touch points.  He also thought in advance and put another strap for an additional reinforcement.  Evidently, dad was planning on having all three of us in this tree stand. I’m not so sure about that one.  Although, I’m saving that argument for a later date.  I must say, Kyle and I fit comfortably on the seat, side-by-side.

The whole time we were there, dad stared at the newly relocated tree stand sporting a huge grin.  He did cut down a few small trees around it, one of which I thought was going to take down the new addition.  I said, “Dad if that tree would have hit the tree stand and knock it down, I was going to leave.”  Kyle busted out laughing and dad joined in saying, “Yes, I guess that would be our luck.”  Dad kept peeking up at the stand and in his head, laying out the options in which we could shoot deer, depending on how they approached us.  I know he was envisioning herds of  deer running all along the woods below are feet, while all three of us shot down.  This is dad’s candy store.  Nothing makes him happier than shooting, especially with his family.  He kept talking about the size of the deer and the racks on the local bucks.  He kept saying that’s what’s in store for us this hunting season.  Then, he would go off into, how much deer meat we were going to have this winter.  Only dad!

Done?  Not quite yet.  We had to make it back out and since dad initially made his own trail to find the tree stand that was eluding us, he wanted to stick to the established road, clearing it out for deer season.  We found the road pretty easily, but it was seriously overgrown and soggy from all the rain earlier in the week.

It took us as long to get out of the woods as it did to set up the stand, if not longer.  It was a roller coaster ride, back up the slate rock road to an almost vertical climb.  Yes, I was back on the front of the quad, like Kyle white knuckling it.  I felt like I had to seriously lean forward to avoid the whole quad from tipping backwards and crushing all its passengers.

We made it back safely and dad was in such a good mood.  As we were ready to load up the quad, dad did something odd that made me and Kyle both stop and watch.  He drove the quad back nearly a hundred yards to load it on the trailer.  What does he need such a runway for?  At that moment, dad revved the engine and gassed it toward the trailer.  I turned to Kyle and said, “What is pappy planning on doing?  Launching himself over the truck like Evel Knievel?”  Kyle was howling!  Just then dad put the breaks on right at the lip of the trailer and slowly drove it on.  Pap thought he was pretty funny too, my guess is from the look on our faces he did psych us out.

Earlier we saw a turkey and along the way, a bunch of deer tracks.  Dad couldn’t have been happier, spending time with us, especially Kyle and moving his tree stand to what he perceived as the perfect shooting spot.

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Now it was my turn to play with the feature. Seriously, how much fun can 1 feature bring? Cortland, NY 8-31-13

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, granted it was around five or six o’clock at this point and we were all beat.  We found a nice little market to get sandwiches and other sustenance, got back to the motel,  showered up, played a few card games with Kyle as well as chess on my iPad, and finished out the night watching back-to-back episodes of Too Cute!

The next morning, pappy slept in till around eight o’clock, which again is unheard of, but Kyle and I played more chess.  On our way back, dad had to stop at his friend Lanny’s house to visit.  Dad hunts on his property every year too.  In fact, dad stays with the elderly gentleman, who is very cordial and hospitable.  I must say, at this point I was getting irritated over dad’s new found relaxed behavior and I wanted to get on the road.

We did make it back about fifteen minutes before we had to get ready to go to late Sunday mass, so I was happy.  Good end, to a surprisingly fun trip.  A trip that I hope we never have to repeat.

Read the first part … What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.  ~William Blake

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We found this feather in the woods in Cortland, New York. It became the focus of our attention for a while. Kyle was cracking me up! 8/31/13

Dad gets his hunting license not only for Westmoreland County, but also for the surrounding counties and his New York license.  In certain areas, dad has his tree stands set up, keeping them there year-over-year.  Yes, that wasn’t a typo.  Tree stands!  As in plural, meaning more than one.

So what does all this have to do with me?  Let me tell you were I was this past weekend.  In Cortland, New York moving a tree stand.  Why?  Simply, because last year, someone hit a big buck up the hill from where dad was sitting.  Ever since then, dad has been talking about moving his tree stand up the hill.  He believes it would have been his buck if he was positioned at a higher elevation.  Is that a fact?  Not necessarily, but I do trust dad’s hunting sense and his observation.  Previous to that, Dad’s was actually talking about moving the tree stand for a while now, but since the buck incidence, that made up his mind for him.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Dad’s not bitter in any way shape or form, for the lucky hunter, not at all.  He’s happy for anyone who gets a deer, especially if it’s a prize.  But he’s had it in his head for a while now to move the stand, pretty much where Larry, a good friend of the family and my mom’s boss at Gutchess Hardwoods, suggested in the first place.  Dad said, “I should have listened to Larry, but I was being so stubborn and had my mind made up.”  Can’t imagine!

Moving a tree stand seems simple enough, not really.  First we had to drive six hours to Cortland, New York to get to the woods where the tree stand was situated.  Then, we had to drive back into the woods, only so far, before all piling on the quad and riding it another couple of miles, before getting out and hiking to the hunting spot.  Yes, somewhere in the 500 acres, was this big metal tree stand attached to a tree.  Did I mention I was the one who had to assemble the beast a few summers back?

Let’s start off with Saturday morning.   I mean morning.  We got up around 3:00 am, and we didn’t leave until 4:30 am.  There used to be a day when dad was up early and started on his day right away.  No sitting around, none of this taking his time, watching the news, finishing his coffee blah blah blah.  Nope!   Dad used to get up, make sure everyone else was up, get dressed and out the door like lightening.  Boy have times changed.  Usually Kyle does pretty good in the am, but this time was a bit different, not that I can blame him, even for me this was a bit early.

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Kyle shooting pap’s .22 rifle at the shooting range. Not a bad shot! 8/31/13

Once we were off, Kyle slept in the backseat of the truck.  He really wasn’t ready to get up and get moving, that is until we made a pit stop at Sheetz.  Naturally, he had donuts on his mind and with his pappy there, he pretty much gets what he wants.  Although as in keeping with tradition, I raced him in and out of the gas station, to and from the truck.  At one point, we both tried to wedge ourselves out of the door and practically got stuck.  Dad saw us and just shook his head and chuckled.

While on the road, once we finally got Kyle up, Kyle and I started to play a game of War.  You know the card game that goes on forever and requires little to no thought.  That game seemed like it was the longest ever played!  Seriously.  Me and Kyle were in amazement because it was never ending.  We kept joking around that we were going to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

The drive was pretty uneventful.  It’s actually kind of nice to be up before dawn and watching the day unfold before my eyes.  We passed Beaver Stadium, my sister’s Alma Mater.  We joked around a little and called my mom and my sister to check in.  I was even fine with the Willy Nelson Serious XM radio station on, that is until it stayed on the entire time to and from New York.

Dad cracks me up.  When he had to pee, he just pulled the truck, which was hooked to the trailer containing the quad, onto the side of the road, peed and left.  Back in the day, when I was little, dad NEVER stopped for no one.  Not himself, not my mom and certainly not for his kids.  We had to go before we left and we learned to hold it until we got to our destination.  Granted, we never really traveled for than four or five hours, but regardless that’s how dad traveled.  Come to think of it, that’s probably why I am, the way I am, when traveling.  I never stop, I keep going till I reach my journey’s end.  Now-a-days things are different, very different.  I swear we pulled over every hour!  Every roadside pause gave me and Kyle the giggles.  Then it would start the teasing towards dad.

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Dad was checking the shots with the spotting scope. Kyle was reloading, ready to go again. 8/31/13

At one point, Kyle had to use the restroom, as did I but I can hold it because I knew dad would expect me to go along side of the road.  Fat chance!  Dad pulled over for Kyle, but not just on the side of the road.  He pulled over were they were doing construction.  To reach the side of the road, dad had to weave the truck and the trailer between the cones.  Me and Kyle were dying!  For some reason we thought that was the funniest thing ever!  Keep in mind this is around ten o’clock or so in the morning, along a major highway.  I knew Kyle wouldn’t use natures facility, and I was right.  But what made the situation even funnier, dad drove down the road that was coned off, and as we progressed the cones got closer together.  We were taking bets if dad was going to knock down a row of cones.  Nope!  Didn’t even graze them!

After we checked into our motel room in no-man’s-land we headed to the woods.  The minute we got out, I was attacked by mosquitoes!  Anyone that knows me, knows I am always the first person to take fire from the blood suckers and I usually get it the worst.  My bites always swell and linger for twice as long as most.  Would you believe no one thought to bring bug spray?  Nope!  We were screwed!

After we unloaded the quad, dad had me plant my buttocks on the front rack, while Kyle was seated right behind dad, beside the chainsaw, tools, salt block and extra chainsaw gasoline.  Yes, that was my first reaction too!  What are we cutting down?  The layout of us all situated on the quad was nothing new, we rode like that before for hunting season and I suspected it was going to be that way.  But what I didn’t know is that we had to chuck wood too?  Yes, apparently we had to clear out the roadway back to the tree stand.  This just keeps getting better!

Lined-up-at-the-shooting-Range-8-25-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The Piper outing at the shooting range. Nicole got back into the swing, not a bad shot. Kyle was shooting pretty good & mom shot a couple, but just observed. 8/31/13

The ride to and fro was quite an adventure!  We hit a few pond size mud puddles, which at one point I thought was going to sink us all whole.  Then, let’s talk about the cliff of death.  The trail was pretty wide, wide enough for a full size vehicle.  So naturally one would think we had enough room for a quad.  Well, we did, but dad kept driving along side the brim of the edge, while looking down!  Me and Kyle were hanging on.  I stated, “Dad, they had a ton of rain this week.  You have the entire road, use it!”  Meaning, dad get away from the edge, the ground is soft and could collapse at any minute driving us down over the edge into the heart of the woods.  Even Kyle laughed about that one and was feeling the same way.  When we later recapped the story to mom, Kyle commented on that very scenario.

We did need to hack up a few logs laying across our path, to get through and I had to get off a few times to walk.  I must say it was quite the journey.  The one part of the road seemed like it was a complete vertical shot straight down and the road looked like a miniature Grand Canyon from being washed out.  I was hanging on, trying not to be projected off from the front end.  It was hard!  The road wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Once dad had me and Kyle on foot, he instructed us to walk up the hill and he followed on the quad.  He even tried to go up a side of a bank and I swear I saw the front end of the quad lift, like it was going to flip.  Me and Kyle just gave each other the look, you know the kind that says, ‘Wow that was a close one.’ or ‘Something bad is going to happen today.’  Then I said, “And you wondered why I brought my phone?”

While on foot, in the hot, humid mosquitoes infested deep woods, we seemed to keep walking on forever.  Like our path was never going to end.  Kyle turned to me and said, “I don’t think pappy knows where he’s going.”  I laughed so hard, I was thinking the same thing!    We kept trucking and following dad on foot.  Did I mention I had a long-sleeved thick hoodie type of top on, zipped up to my neck to protect some of my skin from the pests, and jeans on while I dripped with sweat in the eighty degree weather?  Awesome!

As we zigzagged through the tall brush, dad would stop every now-and-again to cut a few fallen trees.  That is until we came upon vertically intimidating, reaching the top of dad’s head, “jagger” bushes, briars and thick brush.  He actually used the chainsaw to mow down the obstruction!  Me and Kyle watched in amazement.  Then, when he was done, I yelled over, “You didn’t tell me we needed the weed whacker!”  Dad gave me an already tired grin and nod, while me and Kyle found that comment to be pretty darn funny.

Dad even used the quad to knock down small trees and mow down tall brush.  Then, we started to have a field day with that saying, “Does pappy think he’s a bulldozer?” and “We know what to get him for Christmas.”  Kyle said, “Ya, he could use a steam press to flatten our path.”  Very true buddy!  Very true!

Almost there…

To be continued…

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Would There Have Been Death Without A Gun?

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!   ~Darrell Scott

Dad-Aschaffenberg  Germany-1971 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad in Aschaffenberg, Germany with his new pistol before him & mom came home 1971

Guns!  Guns!  Guns!  When in doubt, blame the guns.  At least that’s where the finger seems to point to first, or how the media wants us to respond.  It’s no big secret that I am pro gun, pro sport shooting, pro self protection and pro hunting, as is the rest of my family.  Many agree with me on my opposition of any kind of gun control, and many do not.  That’s fine, I will carry a firearm, while the counter does not.

Having anyone perish by the hand of another human being, while using a gun or not is tragic.  Violence in any form is not healthy and is not something to be celebrated.  Yet, there are times when it is unavoidable, especially when survival instincts take over.  Obviously, I’m referring to the George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin case Who Has the Right to Judge?.

George Zimmerman’s gun was perfectly legal.  It was obtained legally, it was kept legally and it was registered legally.  It was even used legally.  When someone threatens death upon you, especially when they’re punching and striking your face and cracking your skull into the cement, resulting in a broken nose, you are within your right to protect yourself.  It’s called self defense.  It’s not a malicious intent, expect to do what our brains are wired to do and that is survive.

Now that the gun law has been brought to light again, I started thinking, ‘Would anyone have died that night on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida if there wasn’t a gun involved?’  Yes!  That’s what’s really scary.  The removal of the gun, doesn’t mean complete safety.  When Trayvon Martin was beating George Zimmerman’s head into the concrete, he could have easily killed him or gave him irreversible physical damage. (not even talking about physiological damage) Does that mean we need to get rid of all sidewalks?  Stop making cement?  Could Mr. Martin have obtained an illegal gun and used it on Mr. Zimmerman?  Sure, especially with a person known to abuse drugs, and we all know that illegal guns and drugs tend to go hand-in-hand.  That wasn’t the case in this particular incident, but it’s a strong reality.

Piper-Cousins-Deer-Hunting-1989-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chad, Ryan & Jeremy deer hunting. Everyone filled their tags that year! 1989

Anything could be used to kill, a tall building, a kitchen knife, a box cutter!  Granted, guns could be used more efficiently with creating more damage, but not in every case.  A plane was used in 911, killing way more people than an automatic weapon ever was capable of, without the use of a single gun.  We as people are never going to learn unless we start looking and understanding the true source of crime, of destruction, of evil.  I mean the true source, not the easiest or the most popular, but the deepest rooted problems.  The real problems that might be tough to talk about, that might not be able to be fixed overnight and would take time and dedication to solve, the darkest corners.  Yes those problems that never seem to be brought to light.  And I believe it all starts with family and family life.

This thought was best addressed by the person responsible for my lead quote.  I specifically chose him for a reason.  I felt his words needed to be heard again and Darrell Scott really hit the nail on the head and called out the source of the violence and grief, the bottom line, the real issue.

Grandpap-Chester Aunt Heather Piper

Could be my grandpap Chester or his brother, my Uncle Frank during World War II

On April 20, 1999 fifteen students died and many more were injured during the Columbine School Massacre.  Some may not realize that Darrell Scott, the gentlemen I used to quote from, was the father of two of those children who were there that day.  His daughter Rachel Joy Scott was killed.  Did he blame the guns?  Nope!  He did not.  And you might be surprised to find out that he wasn’t a hunter, he didn’t even own a firearm.  In fact, he gave a very powerful statement to a small house subcommittee when taking about the incident.  He spoke of the nature of man,  good verses evil.

He’s right we all have free will, that’s how God made us!  We choose to do right and we choose to do wrong.  Granted sometimes accidents happen and there are misjudgements, but we have to look into our hearts and see the intent.  That’s what makes all the difference, the intent.  A person who intentionally shows the good deeds he’s done is certainly not walking side-by-side with God as another who does good for the sake of doing it, not just for show.  Same goes for the opposite.  George Zimmerman’s intent wasn’t to just start blasting away, and it certainly was not race related.  It was self defense.

Believe it or not, there was a time in history when guns didn’t exist.  And believe it or not, there was still death at the hands of our fellow neighbors.  It’s certainly not the fault of the gun, but solely at the hand of one controlling it.

Dad-Turkey-Hunting-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad turkey hunting…I guess it was a good day! This was before dad quit chewing tobacoo! I see the side chew

Recently, when we had an issue with our dogs Dog Gone Irony!, who ran off and got lost for a couple days, I went hiking through unfamiliar woods trying to locate our delinquents.  Before I set out, I packed my book bag with a few necessities, including my .22 pistol.  Not a large or extremely powerful weapon, yet if needed it would get the job done.  I felt safer, not from people, although if I did encounter a stranger, particularly one without good intentions I was glad I was packing heat, but my immediate concern was animals, specifically bears or mountain lions which have been spotted in the area.  Really my thought was a mama bear and her cubs.  A dangerous encounter that would be scary and could have ended badly.

As I was hiking along, making my way through brush, creeks and trees, I thought, what if I didn’t have access to a gun?  Or worse, what if they were totally outlawed?  Then, basically that decision would take my safety away from me.  It’s not protecting the innocent, the law abiding citizens.  It’s protecting those who turn a blind eye to the law, to what’s right and choose to do harm.

Mom said she saw an interview on TV with a Jewish gentlemen who is pro gun, yet didn’t own a gun, never owned a gun and never even shot a firearm in his life.  Seriously?  Yes!  He said he was pro gun because he was from a time that most may not remember or even know about during World War II.  He commented that one of the first actions set in motion when Hitler started to take power, was to take away all firearms from the Jews.  The Jews couldn’t protect themselves, yet millions died and not all by firearms.

So is gun elimination or even gun control really make us that much better off?  Or does it make us sitting ducks?

 

Below is a portion of Darrell Scott’s transcript:

Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence.

The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA.

I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA — because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies!

Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves.

I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:

Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air
You’ve stripped away our heritage
You’ve outlawed simple prayer

Now gunshots fill our classrooms
And precious children die
You seek for answers everywhere
And ask the question “Why”?

You regulate restrictive laws
Through legislative creed
And yet you fail to understand
That God is what we need

Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.

Spiritual influences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence.

And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs — politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties.

We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre.

The real villain lies within our own hearts.

Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers.

The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched!

We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored.

We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!

As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes — He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!

I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain.

Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him.

To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!

My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!

Be courageous enough to do what the media did not — let the nation hear this man’s speech. Please send this out to everyone you can!!!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments
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